Alone again, she strains to push the too-heavy door shut.
It shouldn't be open. Why is it? Her neighbour's
nowhere to be seen, though the car's in the drive,
there are playing cards laid out on the table.
That night she watches the man next door
through binoculars. Her own husband
ridicules her suspicions. Aliens, he says,
not murder. It's the last thing you'd suspect, after all,
though it happens every day somewhere in the world.
She plucks a sliver of glass from her toe, but there's nothing broken
to explain it. She finds a key without a lock.
Steam from the bathroom. What lurks there, hidden
in the tub? The bath is full, but never filled.
She pulls the plug and screams
as the water sucks and whorls.
Psychiatry's the answer, they decide. She must be mad.
Fragile, let's say. Hurt somehow. To find out why
will solve all mysteries and rid their home of its ghost.
When talk effects no cure, she consults the spirits.
Darkness falls. The door creaks open
and in plods the family pooch. Such disappointment!
Such relief! Day follows day. She is too much alone
in the cold, blue house. The noises come again, and steam.
She rubs it away to show her own reflection
everywhere. Turning back, she finds the dead have scrawled their pleas
and accusations on her mirror. She flees.
Her husband thinks she resents him. (It's all about him, he thinks
− they always do, don't they? And she probably does
resent him who wouldn't?) Back to the shrink,
since she accused her neighbour of killing his wife,
who promptly appeared, quite alive, at his side.
(It's all about couples and absences, those left behind. Was there once
a child?) There is a missing girl. The story of her disappearance
tumbles from its hiding place behind her husband's photograph.
(Which is telling, don't you think?) She believes
she has found her ghost. Her husband, of course, is furious. Don't talk to me
about ghosts! She won't be moved. Research leads her
to the missing girl's kin. (I'd like to go to bed,
but could I sleep not knowing
who the murderer is? I hunger
for the final twist that pulls all loose strands
taut and gives a meaning to all this suffering and confusion.
− I think her husband killed the girl! She suffers,
is haunted because she's the killer's wife!
Joined to his guilt by bonds of matrimony,
she now pays penance for her partner's crime,
must seek justice for the one who was wrongfully slain.)
Possessed, she tries to seduce him with her dangerous love,
then suddenly remembers all: his affair, how
she discovered them together in their house, her nearly fatal accident
soon after, in fact, attempted suicide. (Is that it, then?
The haunting: was that in fact no more
than the slow and painful re-emergence of buried truths?)
She returns to him in sleeting rain. The power's off.
He doesn't answer. The bath! He's in the bath!
Nearly shocked to death, an accident it seems,
but the power cut out just in time. (Those safety switches
really do save lives!) She thinks the dead girl's ghost
is trying to kill her husband. He claims she'd threatened
to kill herself, or to kill his wife, and then just disappeared.
(I don't believe him.) Together they burn
a lock of the dead girl's hair to break the spell.
She hugs her instrument, the gift she gave up
to be his perfect wife. But she forgives him finally.
And then the key remember the key without a lock?
− falls from her robe, chimes like a tinkling bell
against the bathroom tiles. Now she must find out
where it fits (it will destroy her, destroy them).
She finds the box in the mud of the lake's bottom
at the end of the pier. The dead girl's necklace is inside.
She knows now. He denies it, claims
she killed herself, he merely disposed of the body,
tipping it from the bridge into the lake's dark heart.
On his knees he pleads. Forgive me!
Exhume her, she replies. Bring her into the light.
He phones the police and goes upstairs to change.
She's wearing the dead girl's necklace
when she follows him upstairs. She finds the phone he used
and not trusting, presses redial, gets only Information.
Now he must kill her too. He goes to work
quickly, without sentiment, without hesitation.
But before the final blow can be landed, he talks
and talks, confessing all, blaming her
for all his dreadful crimes. (Oh, yes. If only she'd been
a better wife!) He carries her to the bathtub. (All roads.
He will drown her, or she will survive by killing him. To come:
only the desperate and unlikely acts of the finale.)
He sees she wears the dead girl's necklace.
That won't do. Bending to pluck it from her neck,
he catches a flash of the dead girl's face, blue and swollen and changed
by the waters of the lake − panics, slips, cracks
his skull on the bathroom sink, and ingloriously
falls down dead. (Most accidents happen in the home;
most murders too.) Those spidery fingers crawling
to the lip of the tub are hers. His body, though,
isn't where it should be. He's downstairs, playing dead
or slowly dying. She's outside in a flash
with the keys to the truck, and off down the dark road
to the bridge (the bridge!). He's in the back, of course.
And so it goes, until in the final irony
he is drawn down to his watery grave by
the dead girl's ghost, rising from the depths of the lake
to grasp her revenge and free the woman
she once usurped. The torment is over.
She is beautiful again. A red rose on her tombstone signals peace
and time for bed. Matrimony has its dangers,
professors can be cads and monsters, and
two good women − one dead, one living prevail
against one evil man. A balance is restored
for now at least. Tomorrow new crimes will howl for justice.
Until then, sweetheart, simply sleep.
- FREE: 20 Poets anthology
- 91: NO THEME VIIISUBMIT to C Gaskin 90: MONSTERwith N Curnow, coming soon! 89: DOMESTICwith N Harkin 88: TRANSQUEERwith S Barnes and Q Eades 87: DIFFICULTwith O Schwartz & H Isemonger 86: NO THEME VIIwith L Gorton 85: PHILIPPINESwith Mookie L and S Lua 84: SUBURBIAwith L Brown and N O'Reilly 83: MATHEMATICSwith Fiona Hile 82: LANDwith J Stuart and J Gibian 81: NEW CARIBBEANwith Vladimir Lucien 80: NO THEME VIwith Judith Beveridge 57.1: EKPHRASTICwith C Atherton and P Hetherington 57: CONFESSIONwith Keri Glastonbury 56: EXPLODE with Dan Disney 55.1: DALIT / INDIGENOUSwith M Chakraborty and K MacCarter 55: FUTURE MACHINES with Bella Li 54: NO THEME V with F Wright and O Sakr 53.0: THE END with Pam Brown 52.0: TOIL with Carol Jenkins 51.1: UMAMI with Luke Davies and Lifted Brow 51.0: TRANSTASMAN with Bonny Cassidy 50.0: NO THEME IV with John Tranter 49.1: A BRITISH / IRISH with M Hall and S Seita 49.0: OBSOLETE with Tracy Ryan 48.1: CANADA with K MacCarter and S Rhodes 48.0: CONSTRAINT with Corey Wakeling 47.0: COLLABORATION with L Armand and H Lambert 46.1: MELBOURNE with Michael Farrell 46.0: NO THEME III with Felicity Plunkett 45.0: SILENCE with Jan Owen 44.0: GONDWANALAND with Derek Motion 43.1: PUMPKIN with Kent MacCarter 43.0: MASQUE with Ann Vickery 42.0: NO THEME II with Gig Ryan 41.1: RATBAGGERY with Duncan Hose 41.0: TRANSPACIFIC with J Rowe and M Nardone 40.1: INDONESIA with Kent MacCarter 40.0: INTERLOCUTOR with Libby Hart 39.1: GIBBERBIRD with Sarah Gory 39.0: JACKPOT! with Sam Wagan Watson 38.0: SYDNEY with Astrid Lorange 37.1: NEBRASKA with Sean Whalen 37.0: NO THEME! with Alan Wearne 36.0: ELECTRONICA with Jill Jones
- Review Short: Simeon Kronenberg’s Distance
- Review Short: Judith Beveridge’s Sun Music: New and Selected Poems
- Melody Paloma Reviews Keri Glastonbury
- Submission to Cordite 91: NO THEME VIII
- Judith Bishop Reviews Phillip Hall’s Fume
- Bella Li on as Associate Publisher
- Alex Creece on as Production Editor
- Review Short: Diane Fahey’s November Journal and Carmen Leigh Keates’s Meteorites
- Review Short: Vahni Capildeo’s Seas and Trees and Jennifer Harrison’s Air Variations
- To Outlive a Home: Poetics of a Crumbling Domestic
- ‘The Rally Is Calling’: Dashiell Moore Interviews Lionel Fogarty
- Jackie Ryan: Teaser to Burger Force 3
- Dispatch from the Future Fish
- Introduction to Cordite 89: DOMESTIC
- 7 Portraits by Ali Gumillya Baker
- Selections from 3 Yhonnie Scarce Series
- Kathy Acker and The Viewing Room
- To Live There: on ‘Dispatch from the Future Fish’
- The Wild Workshop: The Ghost of a Brontëan Childhood in the Life of Dorothy Hewett
- Externalising the Symptom: Radicalised Youth and The Membrane
- On Deep Breaths and Friends Forever: Im/materiality and Mis/communication in Happy Angels Revisited
- Letter to Anne Carson: Work of Remembrance and Mourning
- Translated Extracts from Chantal Danjou
- Translations from Old English
- The Poets: Pejk Malinovski Self-translates
- Carnage, Crosses and Curiosity: 13 Images by Yvette Holt
- Body of Sound