There were sounds,at night,
from down in the kitchen when no one could have been there.
It was just me, wishing.
It was just me, remembering.
There were moments when you could tell you were not alone;
you stopped half way up the stairs, frozen,
with me right behind you.
I'm sorry for that.
You were lonely,
and I was lonely,
always separate in the same space.
Does it matter
if I say that I had been alone for far longer?
There were cold spots.
That was my fault.
You wrapped your sweatered arms around yourself, and oh,
how I longed for those arms.
Bless the day you got bored
and went up into the attic!
Bless the trunk with my old photographs and letters.
Bless your curiosity.
Bless the curve of your shoulders
and the shape of your small hands as you knelt there reading.
How endless the days seem without you.
November has brought light snow already, and early nights.
Eddie and I went out for a long walk today, out across the fields--
he found a fat mouse to chase and he was so proud of himself, and so confused
when he came back to find me crouched over, sobbing.
I miss you so much.
What was it in my old bent-cornered portrait
that made you look, your dark eyes so concentrated,
and your lips parting without you knowing it?
What made you decide to carry my letters downstairs?
Why did you stay up until the moon was high outside the little window
as you read my heart?
Some girls say, "your daddy probably works for my daddy!"
Some women say, "A few of us play canasta Thursday afternoons.
Won't you come?"
I say, "I have been dead since 1915,
and am buried behind the old wrought iron fence under the sycamore."
Please forgive me if I have lost the art of light conversation.
After the day you went to the attic,
and after the night you spent reading my poured-out words,
I could feel your fascination for me.
I wanted to feel more than that,
more badly than you can ever imagine.
Did the sight of my high lace collar
and my feathered, wide-brimmed hat from Chicago
make you think I was different?
After the faithless, casual women with their short hair
and their short hearts,
did you think you saw something different,
something richer and truer and warmer
I can't deny, mine was a different time,
but we had horse manure in the road--
life was still life.
People loved, and left,
just as they do now.
Tonight, I have come to your bed.
I am a lot of things, but I am not shy.
Against the flow of my time and place, I loved Esther,
and against the flow of time and death,
I want to love you, now.
I want to show you how longing expresses itself
when given a chance to become joy.
I am just a woman--
that is the thing I want you to see.
Tonight, I will undress,
leaving my long white dress across the arm of your reading chair,
and my Chicago hat on the dresser as if it were a landed bird.
Give me your hand, beautiful one.
Let me press it to my hip, my thigh, my breast.
In spite of everything,
my skin is warm and vulnerable and made for touch,
just as yours is.
photo: Evelyn Nesbit