Martin Willitts Jr.
Spirit House, 2
I came for a message.
It will come from the cumulus hills,
grey as whiskers on an old woman’s chin.
Her hands are the misting ball.
Her legs jerking as nervous, like facial tics.
Her fingers thin willow branches.
Her necklace has jade stones
glazed as her cataracts.
She has Hawk feathers in earring hoops.
Her soothsayer voice is beaten weatherboards.
It has a voice I need to hear.
Her wrinkles spell Ouija.
Her voice comes from the far hills.
This is the house hear a message from dead spirits.
This is why it was built.
It was built in the dark.
Its floorboards are made from pieces of the night.
The knotholes are owl’s eyes.
It was built by a man who never built anything.
He declared it built itself while he dreamed it.
When he spoke, his eyes narrowed to points on penny nails.
This house assembled itself.
using wood not native to the land.
This house has rooms leading nowhere.
When you get there, you are lost.
Your ancestors speak from deep in the wood grain.
All you have to do is listen.
When you recall their voices moving in cattails
you are not lost anymore.
This is why I am here.
I am here to hear what I want to hear.
I need to hear a voice from a place I cannot go.
In a voice belonging to the one I loved.
Like so many before me,
I want this like spring water.
Like so many before me,
I will be restless until I do.
It does not matter if I believe
She has the same listless voice
as the dead.
What matters is that the floors are visibly upset.
There is a bend in the road, a detour,
like feral hair on the skull-like crystal ball
whispering with my dead wife’s voice.
Some declare the house never existed.
Some admit that it exists if you know where to look.
Some of the townspeople are too spooked to talk,
or they crossed themselves when they do.
They refused to speak the unspeakable.
The mere mention of this spirit house terrifies them.
It was the kind of place that had a life of its own.
The kind you scared children with.
It grins mysteriously
& people shake as glass in wind
The soothsayer reads the disaster line in my palm.
It has the equator of my sadness.
When she lifted her turtle eyes
She shook her head with disagreement
It is not you that is lost or feeling loss,
It is the loss feeling you needing it more than anything.
It steams with fog from your cut open chest
You will never find what you really need to find: rest.
Today is the kind of day when people congregate
outside of a church discussing the message of hope.
A small girl wearing pinafores and two pigtails
blushes as lilacs with her hands folded over a hymnal.
A boy slicks down a cowlick with his own spit
thinking of filling a Mason jar with polliwogs
Their parents are pitchfork thin.
Their lips casting doubt on the wrong interpretations.
The minister is shaking hands of each parishioner.
There is a hint of a chicken barbeque & broke bread.
The spirits are restless tonight.
There is a disbeliever in the room.
The spirits say they will not speak to this person.
They will speak only to those who will listen.
They ask if you are willing can stay.
They insist those who close their ears & mind to leave.
There will be a short waiting period.
Those that believe, enjoy your encounter.
You will feel comfort in my message.
You will be amazed by what you hear and see.
It snows chicken feathers.
No two messages the same.
The message I get is not the one you get.
I feel wind on my arms.
Is not the same one that you feel.
The spirit house has two entrances.
One for believers and one for non-believers.
The minister has two messages:
One is heard, the other is ignored.
The floors gloom until voices glisten.
The antique fortune teller’s beads include an “eye tooth.”
Some people may call this a “wisdom tooth.”
This is how I knew that she knew her stuff.
But it was her lazy evil eye that sold the deal.
I heard a voice from beyond, from the familiar,
a voice of chicken coops & tractor pulls,
of the ground unspoken & holy,
from wood from nowhere where it does not belong.
The wood owls turn their heads 360 degrees
as weathervanes in snow.
The family praying until their knees bled
blue as a stillborn.
All because I heard this voice
I had not heard so long I did not know it.
The old woman became invisible in morning light.
Just when I felt like I could not feel anymore,
I felt the land was my skin.
The spirit and deep sadness of the land was within me.
It was in the house, the vacated land, the pained eyes
©2008 by Martin Willitts Jr.
Martin Willitts Jr. is a Senior Librarian in New York. After a ten year break from writing,
he has recent publications in Pebble Lake Review, Hurricane Blues (anthology),
Slow Trains (chapbook),
Hotmetalpress.net, Haigaonline, Bent Pin, 5th Gear, and others. He has a fifth chapbook,
Falling In and Out of Love (Pudding House Publications, 2005), an online chapbook,
Farewell--the journey now begins (www.languageandculture.net, 2006), a full length book of
poems with his art The Secret Language of the Universe (March Street Press, 2006), and
he has another chapbook, Lowering the Nets of Light, from Pudding House Publications.
He won the 2007 Chenango County Council of the Arts Individual Artist Award, which he used to edit
a poetry anthology about cancer Alternatives to Survival. He also judged the 2007 Hotmetalpress.net
poetry chapbook contest.
Read Martin Willitts Jr.'s other "Spirit
House" poetry here in Slow Trains.