On a more practical note, maybe a change of scenery
and a never-ending hobby were just what Mrs. Winchester needed to distract
The two words before were describing grief.
Or were they describing each other? Whether you were near
or far from surface, whether fixed or moving,
there was one thing calling to penetrate downward
and another calling to reside right there.
In the place of residence of grief in the griever
who eats her heart out, keens, travails.
I took a paid tour of her interior
woodwork: rosewood, white ash, mahogany,
maple. A kind of eternal life had found interior—
"it has been said"
[during my tour they keep repeating the phrase so finally
"it has" becomes its own persona—living there covering
some kind of terror]
And this: "who can forget"
"building her finest therapy"
"death could not be denied and finally found soft
Another oddity—to speak
of death with such formal calm, our interminable
standing and listening in rooms
displaced from any ruling structure.
"And the dead" "it has been said."
How we speak of death without being sure
that death is what we speak of. Sarah's funny
ivory face, furled pinprick of light made eternal
etch, how could I even conceive of her?
Before 1906, this courtyard stood in the shadow
of a 7-story tower. Today you can see the remains of the tower above
an unfinished portion of the ballroom.
Wild nights, wild nights, would I thee—
One structure of me was never finished, but a fine
example of the [me] style. And fidelity might be
a series of beams placed upside-down
to attract good intention.
What's above, what lies under, what incompletely
at the time of her death was painted.
Texture is usually our tool for discerning,
but my eye makes one divison and who
I was trying. To be
authentic. You guessed it—
What can the eye reveal
inside a sealed window or door?
What texture in an ornamental space
without nails to rust survival?
Remember the scent of the stairwell
descending, remember the chip in closet
near the door. You wrote your name there
before you left there.
Articulate [adhere] one soul to another—
Fidelity might be a series of answers to one question
by one [oh he, the past
The fountain and statues were to draw attention
to the front doors of the mansion.
This idea of the dress rehearsal—
who was her house rehearsing for? Multiple
ghostly someone's, apparently, who might caress
the nails in their redwood offing, or scowl
now at furniture placed to "fill out"
her period: Delft teacups hawked on the Oriental
mantel, musty damask bedspreads.
And someone noted you wrote lucidly
of objects—your voice seemed to flatten
when selfhood approached. So this is perfect, no?
[A house removed of its human anchor, her face
removed of bodily function]
In the storeroom above stabling, her windows look
like drooping faces, three eyes
and corn-on-the-cob lips. Other windows shine
with cultish hamster wheel webs,
snowballs fleeing in your notebook
pages from white to black ink.
And those front doors—"it is said"—refused
even a portly president visiting this valley of earthly
West. Can you admit to this? Were you rehearsing
for someone else's arrival those years with him?
Were you floating on the rim
of an infernal interior [looking in]?
Now hear her feet falling switchback
on the stairwell. Someone has removed the trick
landing so there is no chance you will descend.
And will she receive you? Parcel poured
from cut glass, communicable, even leaving the leaden snowballs
or leaden spiderwebs, or a woman's thirteen
drainholes or a woman's thirteen stories
about love, & love, etc.
This poem appears in the chapbook The
Winchester Monologues, winner of the 2005 NMP/DIAGRAM Chapbook Contest,
published in October 2005 by New Michigan Press. [buy]