Haunted House

Last week I slept in an old B&B,
Victorian, Midwestern, built to convey
High respectability: a house for
A father of its foursquare, limestone town.
Now it wears a bohemian skrim,
Offering brownies and soy granola.
There is said to be a ghost. I don’t know
What kind. Scuttling waif in long nightdress?
Guilt-wracked hypocritical reverend?
As I lay in the high, four-poster bed
Marking midnight on the digital clock,
Watching LEDs blink from my cell phone,
The laptop, and the TV’s complex box,
To the sound of cars and central A/C,
I compared this ghost to an endangered bird,
Her nesting woods cut to shreds by strip malls,
Office parks, and the Interstate, cheeping
Forlornly for a mate. In the sober
Morning light, the lacy lampshade over
The candle-shaped 40-watt GE bulb
Began to rock inexplicably.
I thought: Have you now been reduced to this?
In your own house? Is this what “haunting” means
For you? Trying to catch a stranger’s eye
For an instant as he starts his cluttered day,
Just to say that once you were living too?

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About Peter

Associate Dean for Research and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Citizenship and Public Affairs at Tufts University's Tisch College of Civic Life. Concerned about civic education, civic engagement, and democratic reform in the United States and elsewhere.