All Souls’ Day

Under every surface, the tooth of a buried
word: forgotten names for moss and salt,
schist, blunt artifacts of skin and bone

shed by reptiles in the trees’ blue shadow.
Small papery hulls and speckled stones,
a body once grafted to its exoskeleton.

In the cool interior of a nine-sided tower,
once we listened for the spirit of absent
choirs, a chant that called all doors open

to everyone who sought refuge there. Where
are the seeds the wind bore from the old
country, and what offerings do the dead

most favor? Sometimes, in our petulance, we
forget to leave them a dish on the counter,
a cup of water. Crawling through narrow

tunnels, it’s hard to track the vein of ore.
Some days, there’s a trace of metal in the air;
if not, a tenderness: night scents soaked with

the aura of distance— all that points
to heartsickness as well as destination,
pouring out of the flowers’ white throats.


In response to Via Negativa: Lexicology.

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