|Emily wafted through the echoing farmhouse
kept company by the mother-collie.
She felt as old and weathered
as the house itself. She'd been here almost as long,
although her watery reflection in the hall mirror
showed her the same as the day she died.
She shivered, sending trails of ivy dancing,
remembering sweet smelling apple-log fires,
thin woolen stockings hanging
with an orange, a walnut and a peppermint stick inside.
She remembered carrying that blue and white pitcher from the barn every morning.
The pitcher, chipped now, left behind on a window sill
had a few dead flowers arranged in it.
She liked its being there:
she longed to taste fresh milk again.
Her last family bought milk in plastic cartons
with pictures of missing children on the sides.
Emily remembered all the children that had been born
in the big bedroom at the top of the stairs.
Sitting on the worn window seat,
she could see the summer sun streaming
in through the flower-patterned stained glass design.
The colored swatches on the wide-planked floor
reminded her of her mother's patchwork quilt
that was on the bed the morning
she gave birth to her son
that in life
she never lived long enough to hold,
that in death
she couldn't hold on to.
Emily didn't mind being alone,
she minded being lonely.
It was past time for another family
but she worried that there wouldn't be one.
The house was old and people
weren't buying old houses any more.
They seemed to want new ones,
put together like a puzzle
on a summer's afternoon,
like the one she watched appear on the south pasture.
A cold home, a tomb housing empty souls.
The last people here hadn't any sense of family,
letting the children take care
of themselves, best they could,
while the parents seemed more interested
in watching tv and drinking.
Emily remembered them screaming
to the police and the social worker
about ghosts and poltergeists as they were taken away.
She smiled, thinking that she wasn't a ghost for nothing.
She heard the sounds of a car-
looking out the window she saw
the collie surrounded by children.
A real estate lady was telling the parents
about the house,
talking about bedrooms, water pressure and furnaces needing work.
They didn't seem put off
as they ran light fingers over the glass work
and agreed that the bannister was perfect
for sliding down. The mother was figuring out
where the Christmas tree would go.
The father couldn't wait to enjoy a fire
in a real old-fashioned fireplace.
The kids wanted to know if the collie
came with the house and was it really true
that the house was haunted?
"Oh, I hope so," said the mother.
Emily brushed by the chandelier;
the crystals sang as they moved against each other.
A rustle of papers, a scratch of a pen,
phone calls on one of those miniature telephones people had now-a-days.
Snatches of conversations
offered and accepted.
The real estate lady went back where she came from
mumbling about strange people, ghosts and spending her commission.
The mother wandered around outside picking some flowers.
She came into the kitchen and arranged them
in the blue and white pitcher,
then stood there looking out the kitchen window
at the apple tree out in the field.
"Well, ghost," she said,
"I hope you don't mind if we come and live with you."
Emily smiled and said something she knew
the mother wouldn't be able to hear. . .
until I answered.