Friday, October 30, 2015




The cool breath of the dead sighs down the hall.
It peels my soul like an old potato,
thick slices of skin and soft woody flesh
dropping in a spiral on the kitchen table of this
tired life.

A speaking shadow stands at the door,
an empty replicant.
A grey curse hangs over him
like the sullenness of unshed rain
blowing past a withering crop.

Huddled in the closed grave of my bed
I compose my bones in paleolithic repose
with dry flowers, an awl of horn,
a broken string of red beads 
       drifted with earth,
waiting for the ending of that next birth.

O I hear you out there,
rapping, knocking, calling
with a mute vibration
begging to come in and have me.

O I answered last time and see
See me now.

Roll the rock and stop the door.
Put the holy symbol round my neck.
Only keep
    the shadow

~March 1991, reposted for the 2015 hallows of October

This poem feels very young to me now. October is also the anniversary month of Verse Escape, which turns 5 this year.

Illustration: The Vampire, by Philip Burne-Jones  (1861-1926)
Philip Burne-Jones [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons


  1. Aw. What a great birthday month for this bubbling cauldron of ayes. It's always great to see what leads from there to here, and what I see is how craft that has evolved though the deep eye has ever been there; it's like we have to learn to say the words in order to capture the heart that was always there. The images cut quick and clean, no shortage of them there (the cool breath of the dead peeling a soul like an old potato, o yes). Maybe its in the smoothing of the voice, the willingness to compress and tock the timbre so it reads like feral metronome -- or do we, like Merlin, simply woo ourselves into the verbal wood of enchantment with Niniane's tetrameter? Who cares. Whatever. All of it was there then, Hedge, thanks for bringing us here. And happy birthday, VE. No wonder the Octoberals are a hoot.

    1. Yes, Niniane's metric disguise is strong with this padawan. ;_) Thanks, B--I agree, the light of October needs many shifting interpretations--the most complex of seasons is autumn, in its Janus-like position--here, if there is little light, still there are shadows that point out where the light comes from, and possibly, where it goes.

  2. Yikes--this is a pretty frightening poem--the rebirth, or second coming, not of a savior--you use the imagery so very well in all the stanzas--the old potato (which in Terry Pratchett land is a kind of religion), the cloud that doesn't rain passing over the parched earth--that is especially potent I think, the kitchen table of this life--and of course the wonderful quasi-christian imagery at the end--replicant is such a great word too, as of course it implies supplicant, but here it is the ghost shadow of the dead, I guess. It is amazing how this shadow wants to suck the life from you, or something else--feels so much a poem of abuse, which is what makes it so frightening and sad, really, for there is a naturalism in the tropes-- perhaps what makes it feel young, as one can imagine the person in the bed to be young for all the paleolithic bones--

    Congratulations on the anniversary! And on all the great poems this month! k.

    1. Thanks, k--as always you find all the nuggets in the stream here. Reading it now, I feel like I have perhaps written this poem many times, many different ways, but the ghost still comes around, doesn't it?

  3. It peels my soul like an old potato...

    What an excellent comparison! You have remained true to your themes over the years, Hedge. Congratulations on 5 years of blogging - that takes a lot of commitment and vision and we, your readers, are grateful.

    1. Thank you, Kerry. Your support and encouragement has been no small part of that 5 years.

  4. I remember when you came to us, full of youthful optimism and writing your poems about flowers and sunny skies. Silliness aside, congratulations on five years of some of the best poetry being written today. You inspire me and challenge me, and besides that, you are my BFF. You're a blessing, and cute as a raven in your little pointy hat.

  5. 5. Fabulous. Were i brave or smart or both I'd dive into the catalog, as you remain one of my favorite poets. ~


"We make out of the quarrel with others, rhetoric, out of the quarrel with ourselves, poetry." ~William Butler Yeats

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