Poetry

The Grave Robber’s Confession by Mack W. Mani

I’ve seen Will ‘o Wisps
and St. Elmo’s Fire,
mostly them in the Southlands
graveyards near bayous or swamps.

I once saw an entombed woman 
come back to life 
three days after her death,
I had just slipped the ring 
off her finger pale and bony,
when she gasped and rose with a cry.

One summer I lived 
in the catacombs beneath Paris
and for nigh on a month
never once saw the light of the sun,
only pale torchlight 
cast across fields of bones,
wooden chests rotted to their hinges.

I have walked the hall of ashes
and seen the rotting face 
of John the Baptist.

Once in Afghanistan, 
I even spied a ghoul
prowling the trenches near dawn 
picking the corpses 
of both sides equally.

These are my qualifications,
such as they are;
few know as much about death
and the places of the dead 
as grave robber, 
so believe me when I tell you,
there is nothing beyond the grave,
but me.

No voices 
or tunnel of light
just darkness, dust, 
and these two dirty hands,
trying to make a living.

Art:

[Wooden Grave by Marker Majel G. Claflin c. 1937]
Standard
Poetry

Posthumous

I kept your book
in the garden
where you’d left it
and watched day by day,
as the elements took it over,
sun bleaching the cover
rain swelling its pages.

From the right angle,
I could just make out
your hand drawn notes,
splayed across a corner of text,
the dog-eared page where
you had stopped reading
that sunny afternoon.

In time,
it settled into the loam
and there beneath the roses
framed and shaded in
hemlock and holly,
the book began to take root.

Before long
it stood as tall
as a sunflower,
sentences folded
into leaves,
spine extending
as a stalk.

And at the peak,
new pages began to form
as petals, stamen, pistol
gently folded origami
words not written when
you read the book.

Abstract and wondrous
prose and poems
from beyond the grave,
death having evolved your speech.

Fragments of memoir,
experience and tragedy
the travelogue of a dream
a journey into the surreal.

…such gifts they make of life here…
…blinding sun fractals bent at odd angles…
…Galore and Gore and Grammar…
…the pretense of time, alive and unending…
…my love my love my love…
…do not seek me here, for I am in the earth…

The thing lasted
almost a year
before succumbing,
despite my best efforts,
to the eternal,
withering, bent, and grey
I found it dead
on New Year’s Day.

Still,
I have the transcripts
those I could discern,
interred under glass
in a brightly lit corner
where sometimes
I simply sit and watch
and pretend that I can still
hear you out the window
in the garden below,
living, breathing,
and turning the pages.

Standard
Poetry

Color Into Noise

Up until the 1990s,
they let the peacocks
roam the grounds here,
temperamental as they were,
they would follow you
around the courtyard
and through the gardens.

The birds would
come and go
as they pleased,
flying between
the estate and
the nearby woods,
densely forested
though they were.

In the summer,
you could hear
them out there
most nights,
boys calling out
to the hens,
translating all that
vibrant color into noise.

Standard
Poetry

Secret Santa

I didn’t know for sure
until last Christmas Eve,
when earth and sky
shared the eerie twilight blues
and all the people seemed to glow
with rosy cheeks in
soft bright sweaters.

I was wearing
that tired black dress,
looking down at my children
and up to their father,
dressed up for the kids
as reward for being good.

They cheered
when they saw him,
Santa! Santa! Santa!

But maybe he is
too good of an actor
or not good enough,
because when I saw him
in that red costume
and white beard,
I realized what I was missing.

That night he was
a different man,
or at least
different enough
from the one I knew.

Here was a happy guy
the giving type
always kind
not afraid of a few drinks.

He was everything
my husband wasn’t.

And that was when I knew.

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