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The first two episodes may be read here and here.

~~~

A bed of gilt
with posters soaring
to a vast and vaulted
ceiling lay dead
center in the room
where ghost of ages
had assigned me
for the night, and all
across the counterpane
(that’s bedspread, fyi,
for some of us) in red
and black embroidered
letters spelt, DO NOT,
DO NOT, DO NOT
SLEEP HERE.

Then where? If not
upon a bed of guilt…
I looked around, aware
that U had silently crept
in, laid low a golden
age, deposed a bower
of repose. For what?

God dang! I knew,
if nothing else, this wasn’t
new to me, this house,
a host stuck in some
marmelade of misery.
I had been happy
once, quite sure of it,
and fought hard every
day to drag the feeling
back to front ahead
of me and might have
too, except for U and I—

Eeks!

I thought I’d heard
a noise, some skittering
of clause along my toes.
I leaped onto the bed.
There was no other
furniture apart from
chains forged to the
wall with manacles
and shackles spiked
for hands and feet, a
sign between them
reading, YOU ARE MORE
THAN WELCOME ALWAYS
TO SLEEP HERE!

—the hell?

These were my choices
then: recline upon a bed
of gold that told me no,
or lock myself against
a wall that welcomed but
would never let me rest.
I pondered what the ghost
of ages would expect
from me, a tattered soul,
convinced that I am
battered by great
forces and that love
at best, is fiction
passing, restless…
and the more my
thoughts collided ‘gainst
the had and would
and could and should,
a headboard, iron, gold
I felt, perhaps from sheer
exhaustion, a relinquishing.

A gaslight near the window
winked and winked again—
aha!—reminding me that
everywhere there’s two
there’s three, a thought,
unthought, and—

Off the bed I dove
and through the window
climbed and wondered,
tangled in the vines, if
what I’d viewed below
and thought I’d
dreamed was real.

In clear response, a
lion roared. A bull, he
pawed the flower bed
and snorted in circadian
disturbance—these are
not nocturnal creatures—
and the ghost of ages
woke me with a start
and said, you snored
again, sweetheart.

“I did?”

No. That would
be a tawdry end
to think that all we’ve
been through was
a dream, for life is
not a dream, it is a
poem-song, a play
of rhyme and light
a slant, a metered
pause of U and I who
sometimes act, quite
needlessly, as though
we’re poor and
wandering.

Beware, for at the
crossroads of the habit
of self-sorrowing awaits
a ghost. His name
is Ages Past.

Happy Halloween!

~~~

© Elaine Stirling, 2013

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