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The Old Hall

March 27, 2021

The Old Hall appeared in Interpreter’s House, Volume 69:

The Old Hall

This old house, the Old Hall,
where your friend lived before dying.

Word was
he’d seep from the acrylic
of his paintings on winter’s nights
to warm himself by the cold fire,
turning records he’d loved in his living days.
I can’t say I saw him
or heard him
but we slept in his room and woke
to the lake lapping at the bedroom door.
So much floor for a ghost to dance across,
with the kohl-dark night washing in from the reservoir
and your diamante make-up box offering lotions
to make his long-gone features real.

Did he smooth life into his complexion
with your foundation, face powder, blusher,
laying expression with your eye liner, eyeshadow, lipstick, mascara,
thrilling as his face took fresh form,
as he reconstructed himself as if alive?
Perhaps he hauled a coat from your clothes chest
and took on its shape,
held his ground before the full-length mirror
and laughed,
the shackles of a life pleasing him,
blissfully jealous of the limits of the real world
and in love with the doors that contain us,
the clocks that strike against us,
the gentle blinkers of existence
that tie us down to what’s to be known,
what can be heard,
what can be smeared across a face.
Maybe he sneezed and took pleasure
that a cold November starless night
could still touch the dead.

And scanning the grooves of a vinyl LP
with a fingertip that leaves no grease print,
no trace beside a dust of talcum,
with such a memory of music surfacing
in a heart in death still warm,
did he need to share it,
late one night when you were home late drunk,
when he surprised you
as you took his face as your own
in the window you’d wiped that morning?
And did you find yourself thinking of him,
of songs he gave you on cassette
that you sung together driving
or he sung alone that morning late for work
when his car ran aground on a corner
too slow for the speed he threw at it?
And did he bow to you,
and start dancing,
and know bliss?

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