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The Dead in My Life

Stephen Morrissey

From Family Album, Caitlin Press, Vancouver, 1989:


my mother in the kitchen
didn't have to mingle
with the guests
while someone took snapshots
leaving out us
at the end of the couch
children fell down the stairs
then hid behind a chair while
I joked with my sister-in-law's father
I reflected on being
someone I'm not
as we drove fifty miles home



we don't mind winters
the old get up
and are found in the spring
curled in new grass
with crows
singing overhead
I think of one thing:
waking one day and
finding an old man
in my bed
he is indifferent
to his surroundings
pressed against
the white sheets
like a pinned butterfly


that I have lived
so long and still
not at ease
in my skin
seeing in the store's
window the reflection
of one lost in himself
pieces of a life
always about to unravel
skin like
synthetic cloth
the harried expression
torso and brain
vibrating to a frequency
conscious only
of itself


evening's light
at angles
not seen since
grandmother sat
in silence
on the living room
couch   light
moving across a room
so slowly it becomes
a vine growing
a geranium red
the white wall


the maroon couch
covered in white sheets
visiting at Christmas
two great aunts
deafness and old age
the ancient wreath
on their door
behind it
a place of silence
a reliquary of
existence reduced
to tea
and sitting
waiting with them
my brother and I
snow falling on the
empty street below

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