Note: Mary Higgins Clark, in her inspirational speeches to writers, had as her core message the question “What if?” She encouraged people to use it to get their creativity in gear. The Billy Collins comment below spurred this “what if?” poem. I live, write, and ask “what if?” in Connecticut, where I also teach and am poet laureate of my town.
Spirits of the House
For Billy Collins, who once said in a reading that we could never be too grateful that inanimate things remained inanimate.
The television is, of course, female.
What else could hold a man entranced for hours?
The bookshelves are male,
ponderous, heavy with abstraction,
linear, their blocky lines
cross-wording the wall.
The laptop wears a long, flowing pink dress,
has red hair. She is the daughter
of Aphrodite and Thor.
Mother Goddess nestles in the couch:
fertility of snack crumbs,
small beads and loose change;
plump, embracing arms welcome you to sleep.
The mobile above the baby’s bed
holds the spirit of the air,
a slow motion tease.
And Maggie the Cat—little dark soul
who keeps the rest in line—patrols,
egregiously matted and unsteady,
her once beautiful tortoiseshell fur
now a used car lot of dried food and feces.
She alone stands between us and the poltergeists
winging disorder through the house,
they who would rearrange the books,
sneak silverware into the underwear drawer,
move themselves—couch, television, bookshelf—
to the other side of the room at midnight
to wound an unwary householder,
make phone calls to an old lover,
hypnotize a man so he forgets his life.
First published in my collection Do You Expect Your Art to Answer?¸Futurecycle Press, 2017
© 2018 Laurel Peterson
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