Saturday, January 21, 2012

December 23rd

It was two days before Christmas,
And I hadn't seen the riders in the road.
I remember
The big bay doing a stutter step,
His head moving down, then up,
Like an oil well.

I swerved my car into the trees
As if I were a child down a slide--
Whump! Fast.
Into a parent's arms.

"Sit here," someone said.
A request.
I knew I was dead.
It was snowing outside--
Big exuberant flakes, coming down 
In the halo of the porch light beyond the windows...
I hadn't expected that.

Soft sounds came from inside the kitchen doorway.
A hall clock ticked,
I studied the dark richness of the old plank floor,
And soaked in the soothing gray
Of the walls.

A woman came and leaned in the light near the stairway.
"Hi," she said, and smiled.
She wore a ribbed turtleneck and jeans,
With antique silver rings on her fingers,
And her blond hair was the color of honey on biscuits.

"I'm dead," I told her, stupidly.
"I know," she said, and held out her hand. "Are you ready?"
"Sure," I heard myself say,
And I was.

photograph by Margaret Bednar

posted for Real Toads Sunday Challenge.


Lydia said...

Spectacular, Shay! I do believe that this is my favorite poem of yours now. It was all the more powerful because I first stopped and stared at the trio of equine beauties, along with your charming captions, atop your sidebar.

I can't believe how great this is.

Brian Miller said...

really nice textures...i like your description of her very much, the lady that came in the end...feels authentic...i like it...

Mama Zen said...

I agree with Brian; this feels authentic. There is a matter of fact tone that accentuates the beauty of the words and makes it seem completely believable. It's a fantastic write, Shay.

Kay L. Davies said...

Wow, Shay. I'm sure those horses in your sidebar believe, as I do: this is what any good person would do: die rather than hit the riders in the road, and accept death calmly rather than live a life filled with guilt, regret, and psychic pain.
I don't know how you got this poem from Margaret's photo, except perhaps the missing chair, but it is one helluva fine poem, 'scuse my French.

hedgewitch said...

Now you make the dead speak. I'm getting seriously uneasy. I love it that the anteroom of eternity is a homey kitchen with a hippie chick instead of some saintly dude in white wings, and that this passage seems as simple as breathing (or ceasing to breathe, I suppose.) beautiful piece, Shay--just luminous.

Mary Mansfield said...

An amazingly beautiful poem! Love this take on the passage from this world to the next!

Margaret said...

Hmm. It has something to do with the lighting, I think. I remember taking the photos on this floor and I kept thinking of all the people who had been here before. Lovely, heart-renching really, write. I'm proud of her instinctive response to save not herself first, but the others.

Anonymous said...

I love the scene you've created. I can really get on board with this view of the afterlife's waiting room.

Vesper said...

I knew I was dead.
It was snowing outside--

It seems so easy when you read this... like a return to familiar things...

This is a wonderful, wonderful poem, Shay.

Kerry O'Connor said...

If the ante-chamber to the afterlife is as comforting as this room, with its well-worn seats, and the hostess as kind, then who would fear the death by accident?
Your story-telling is very grounded in the real, which makes the surreal all the more believable. I love this poem.

Anonymous said...

if only it will be as easy as that...

Anonymous said...

When my younger brother almost died in a car wreck at 18, he recalls dying on the operating table a couple of times. And when he did, he said he felt filled with this grand and halcyon peace, that all was and is and ever well. Not may tales survive of what transpires in that "bourne beyond which no traveller returns," as Hamlet put it, though our fascination with it is rich. Loved that horses -- the riders of dream -- are also the harbingers of death here, and that the Matron of the Inn of the Dead bears such resemblance to the figure who commences to write down the page of Shay's Word Garden. All truly was and is and ever well. - Brendan

Lynn said...

A riveting story.

ellen abbott said...

I like this one, I like the story quality and the hidden rhyme.

nene said...

I echo Lydia, Kay, Kerry and Brian.
You can make the 'Fire' in your name come to life and not fear inserting my hand into it.

Love ya!

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Wowzers. And Yoiks. Fabulous!

Mary Ann Potter said...

You've written this in such a matter-of-fact way that only a poem could so artistically tell it. Your imagery appropriately fades as your ideas come forth. Wow. Love, love, love it. I echo the reactions of those who've commented before me. We're all impressed!

Lolamouse said...

Eerie but comforting at the same time.