Seven years old,
wandering across a spine of toppled deities,
deeper and denser than any fathomable darkness.
One eye down and the other skywards.
There were books stacked under beds,
baroque paintings that came to life
when the right incantation fell from the right tongue.
Clatters accented nocked bowstrings
while mathematics fell into step with sorcery.
The ash tree at the end of the street dripped magic wands
with every wilting fall,
and someone left moonstones
inside the bushes for children to find.
Wands fell out of fashion with age,
the world grew a second skin,
and the mountains and the forests took a few steps closer while we weren’t looking.
Hands fell to sword hilts,
blades of light and divine steel
slicing against mist.
Cutting into ribbons what couldn’t bleed.
dirt under the nails giving way to blood,
with no one sure how it got there.
These were the heroes of centuries ago,
but time has made their wounds heal sourly.
Maybe we’ve learned that
castle walls can only protect you from so much.
Maybe because it’s hard to forget.
Swords are heavier,
than the tales would have you believe.
Cantus and sonata,
Composed in caves and heard first at high noon.
Sounds danced arm-in-arm with colors,
Hues so bright their names fall on foreign tongues.
Divine light, perhaps.
Scriabin knew something we didn’t-
Heard and saw something we couldn’t,
Trying to fracture the world with preludes and nocturnes;
Didn’t you know that?
Romantics or fatalists,
Pressing poppies between pages
For the color or for the opium.
Time coughs up from the bindings,
Little puffs of another life in
The piece was left unfinished,
Wilting away in a Himalayan cave.
Harp strings snapping and rust blooming
Across piano keys.
His glasses lie discarded,
Waiting to kindle a fire of all the things that
perhaps this house is haunted
In bed, a draft moves through me.
He’s invasive, lecherous,
settling under my shirt and splaying himself between my knuckles.
I can almost see him, an estuary dusk hovering above me,
Drawing me in.
But who could shift away from a ghost?
He stakes his claim on me, just for a breath.
Perhaps he revels in the goosebumps,
In any tautness or flush of blood he can pull onto human skin.
There’s a high singing outside.
A witch wanders the streets in the early days of the year,
drowned in the bay, dragged into silt and sand by northern seaweed.
She’d have preferred a hanging.
Death, though, is a dignity that few are granted.
She swoops past my window and grips the joints of our home,
shaking and rattling its foundation.
Bedrooms sway from side to side.
The attic floor is cold underfoot.
Perhaps this house is haunted.
No one’s been up in the attic in years, anyways.
Maybe this is the closest they can get.
There’s only so much you can say through winter winds and hitched violin notes. Messing with the frequencies of phonograph surface noise only gets you so far.
There’s a girl, they say to each other,
behind the third window on the second floor.
Up late, cold and covered in hauntings.
Let’s acquaint her, shall we, with eternity.
I. Dad has this yellow umbrella he keeps by his bed for rainy days, all folded up like the wings of a nylon-taffeta canary. We’ve got a few other umbrellas, but they’re not birds’ wings. They’re just tented metal skeletons wilting on plastic spines. The yellow one doesn’t wilt. It speaks. It’s the midway mark on a traffic light, driving fifty million decisions into your head at the speed of stop or go, until the math is too much for the space between crosswalks. The yellow umbrella calls to the taxi cabs, each one slowing to a stop for its kin color. It’s the color of Broadway, the same hue they stuff into pigmented bulbs encircling someone’s favorite marquee.
II. My sister doesn’t like the rainy days. She says everything is pressed flat by foul weather. Newspapers cry their reports into the asphalt, typefaced letters dripping beneath churning wheels and indifferent footsteps. She hates the unavoidable rustle of raincoats in the subway, the masses of floor-length black coats like clusters of dripping tally marks.
III. I like the rainy days. There’s always a sheet of slanting water slashing across the streets. There’s more room on the sidewalks. All of the billboards still shine, and the skyscrapers checker the slate skies with the gold tiles of where someone’s solace shines. Outside, with dad’s umbrella, rainy days sound like two twinkling piano keys, one blue and the other nylon-taffeta yellow.
It’s hard to know when years grow teeth.
I’m too young to oppose them, I know.
My first grey hair arrived at seventeen.
I’d said it all those years, between plastic with a head in my fists.
Aches and pains are inevitable, I think.
Those don’t scare me so much.
The world, though,
Who it will give and take,
how angry it might grow before one outstrips the other.
That hurts to think of.
But not this:
I read a book twice as I grew.
First as an enemy, then as a ghostwritten diary.
Christmas became warmer, softer, gold and bobbing strawberries.
Some place will care for me, spin me and set me right.
I heard that old song yesterday,
The one with the whistling.
I didn’t grumble against its melody.
I didn’t even flick the dial onwards.
Miraculously, I listened.
Against all odds, I added it to a playlist.
It could be that growing old hurts, but only because aches are the shedding of brittle skin.
Maybe growing old means loving the songs you once hated.
Maybe growing old means making peace.
JANE DONOHUE I am a high school senior in New Hampshire. I write long-form fiction, short stories, and poems. I plan to major in English with a concentration in Creative Writing in college.
For me, poetry is an act of catharsis, so I write it as stream-of-consciousness. Without punctuation or line breaks or usage of the delete key, I put everything I’m thinking onto the page until I feel I’ve said what needs to be said. After that, I snip away lines and reconfigure the formatting.
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