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Martin Willitts, Jr.

The Spirit House


Land cruises by the hand-
made house forged forward
resisting brakes

the house decides where it belongs

it lifts up & rotates
so the front door is in the back

facing the orange sunrise
blocked by the high pumpkin hills


the neighbors insist:
cows cannot milk

chicken lay rotted eggs

the land sighs

the house assembled itself
& has a forbidding personality


house shifts impatiently
over its root cellar
searching for shade

neighbors complain:
it just got a mind of its own

it appears square as a postage stamp

upon closer inspection
the corners are slightly rounded
like heels

the wood is not from here
in fact, not from anywhere
foreign to woods & it glows

the trim seems to be icicles
the windows have wrinkles & cataracts
& blink tiredly

it clears the throat of the chimney

wells are bloodstained


a stranger was just passing through
when his wagon wheel turned into dust

this is where he decided to build
deciding this was Godís work & land

he had no understanding with tools
but experience was not required

if he need a hole, it appeared shoveled
if he needed walls, a saw ghostly cut
and no nails were required

he never needed a plan
he just believed it was all Godís plan

& it just happened
casual as prayer & useless as a wagon wheel


spirits, he proclaimed
to any that would listen

some shook their disbelieving heads
some concluded he was deluded & insane

some kept their opinions to themselves
close as a gambler with a winning hand

some laughed at the suggestion
but slept with one eye open, just in case


spirits, the neighbors respond, haunted
I do not how it was built
but it sure was not with human hands

spirits do what they want to do,
the blacksmith whose forge no longer heats

when the pastor proclaimed to his congregation
there was no such things as spirits,
his pulpit burst into flames & his face melted

you cannot tell spirits what to do
whispered the widow whose hair fell out
as she passed too close to the spirit house

spirits are unpredictable, says the only store owner,
but profitable with tourists & such
otherwise all I would be is a bait shop


the spirits ainít speaking to me
they are giving me the silent treatment
spirits do that sometimes
sometimes they donít


during the late 1880ís Spiritualism was popular
people paid handsomely for communication
with their beloved, sometimes with mixed results

sometimes the spirits were the wrong gender
or did not recognize the living
or refused to speak or in gibberish

the spiritualist is not responsible for these errors
once the spirits inhabit their body
or the Ouija board spells poorly


the front door opens
& every time something is different behind it:

a brick wall;
a pantry with carnival glass & fine crystal goblets
near a harmonium and a vase of bluebells;

the kitchen with sliced homemade bread
and a kettle of stew beef with tomatoes
and celery on the chopping board
and knife from Oneida silverworks
sharp as a cookís tongue;

the master bedroom with the sheets tight as secrets
as the wall are wallpapered with tears;

or you find yourself staring at yourself
like a full length mirror
and you barely recognize yourself
in formal dinner clothes and bowler hat


The house spins like a potterís kick-wheel
as it evolves into a great snowy white owl

it wheels over the gingham colored fields
shedding feathers as snow flakes

blanketing the area with impossible snow
high enough to strand cattle

deep as a cough of interruption
a rut of tracks disappearing

making everything ghostly white
mute as unanswered prayers


Arthur Conan Doyle believed in spirits
& tried to explain them rationally

investigating clairvoyants with Holmes logic
that anything remaining must be the truth

& hoping to again speak to his departed wife
just a taste of her lipstick on his cheek

Houdini tried to debunk the charlatans
exposing how tables levitate

apparitions had no mystical properties
and tea leaves are merely stains in a cup

as he walk through walls like porous brick walls
a skeleton key hidden indented under his heel

neither man could prove or disprove anything
the house grinning at their frustration

they would never be the same afterward,
Houdini drowning in his own magic

Doyle unable to write except to kill off his creation
Holmes falling into an abyss of a waterfall

Strange isnít it how connected things are
How spirits work strangely & without conscious


The house returns as an afterthought

No one dares cross the threshold

No one wants to talk about this

Silence is fields of eyes on Cortland Apples

Stillness is the door without a doorknob

The house frightens the land

©2007 by Martin Willitts, Jr.

* The Spirit House is a modified 1840 - 1885: Italianate. It has the rectangle shape with a flat roof. It does not have a square cupola (An ornamental structure placed on the top of a larger roof). It also does not have a porch topped with balconies, or side bay windows. It is located in a small town called Georgetown , New York .

Martin Willitts, Jr. is a Senior Librarian. His recent publications include Falling In and Out of Love by Pudding House Publications (2005), Farewell: the journey now begins (2006), The Secret Language of the Universe March Street Press (2006), and Lowering Nets of Light Pudding House Publications (2008). For more information see his Web site.

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