Sunday, June 5, 2011

Something There Is In the Attic

Every human body is a haunted house.
Something there is in the attic
that drives it and sets its course.
Are the shutters half-drawn?
Are they nailed against sunrise?
Do spiders spin in the tenantless rooms?
Who lives there? Ahab and his mono-
Moby madness? Emily with her dry-
leaf poems like money under a bed?
Or no one at all? Does no one hear
as each flaked shingle falls,
as varicose ivy beards up, as sun
and sag gray-wash the porch beams
and lintels? Something there is
in the attic that drives it and
sets its course. Whose will? An old
man’s will? A boy’s? A loud-mouthed
betrayer of dreams? A dreamer
paralyzed? Why does this house
not fall, but stand at elmward avenue,
accusing all, begging a moon,
a clean sweep, a neighbor’s knock,
a letter? Something there is
in the attic that drives it and
sets its course. This house is
Ahab’s ship, Usher’s manse, Lovecraft’s
infirmary, a witch house, feast
hall, love nest and chapel, sanctum
of Solitude, the Capulets’ tomb.
If every human body is a haunted
house, shall we not choose
these ghosts? Can I not summon
a typing poltergeist, a coloratura
howler, a phantom raconteur
to teach me all dead languages,
a gourmet chef insomniac,
someone for whom the 1812 Overture
has not (as for me) ever lost its charm,
a friend who hovers over Batman comics
and knows every line poor Bela Lugosi
was ever made to utter? Room enough,
and beds, and food and tea, for them all!

In October this house is avalanched,
as leaves, and ghosts of leaves
from every tree that ever crisped
in the tug between slant-sun and frost,
pile high in ziggurats of oak,
maple and sumac, hawthorne and willow,
each with a tale of hope and sorrow
waiting its turn for harvest.
They almost obscure the house, so high
that one lone cupola, the poet’s watch,
stands apex at its pyramid,
as one mad vane whirls at the whim
of indecisive winds, as lightning rod
trembles for discharge of the weighted sky
into the attic haunter’s cranium.

I am that attic Something: I drive
this house unchanging, wall-to-wall
with mad cargo. My gambrel roof
is an upside-down Mayflower
as I sail against the leaf-tide. Monsters
would block my passage: great whales
of Doubt breach above a maple current;
the baleful skyward eye and tentacles
of the giant squid of Loneliness float by
in a sea-tide of weeping willow.

Yet something there is in the attic
that billows the sails, and drives me on.
The madness that fills these pages
is self-sustaining: some days
these scratchings seem meaningless,
unmusical; some days I read and gasp
and shudder to think that somehow I wrote
or was written through, to reach this apogee.
Alone? Well, lacking the guests
I crave, I must split and become them.
Books, cat and bed, a galaxy of music,
teapot that fills as fast as I empty it:
it is not a bad life,
to be the haunter of one’s cobwebbed self.

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