Empty Spaces

“All of the empty spaces have the outline
of someone missing . . .” — Rita Mae Reese

Between the walls, windows, doors,
cracks and nail holes, baseboard edges
and dents where furniture bumped against
plaster, mortar, or dry wall: silence and grief
drift and wallow. A spider
crawls in. A beetle, a gnat.
My dead sister makes faces in the window.
My dead brother likes to knock
on the bedroom closet door at night
when the only other noise is a clock. My grandfather
at the side door stares into the garage.
My mother, now young, sits on my dresser
watching me pick out my clothes, shaking her head.

There are generations of dead here,
some I don’t know. The house is so old,
its spaces so full, I can’t find room
for anyone else. Their debris
still clutters the hallways, attic, basement,
in trunks and wardrobes, sealed boxes
long ago carried to a dump, Goodwill, or some
other repository of lives. But their shadows linger.
I move around the spaces they left behind,
careful not to bump any sharp edges.

At night, I lay an extra plate for dinner,
or two, and a bowl of salt by the front door.
I cannot placate them.
They are me, they are mirrors, they are the air
I breathe and choke with incense
to chase them away. I am the smoke
scenting the air. I fill the spaces
they cannot reach. I am their ghost
on the other side of the door. I am
the missing one, a chalk outline on the floor.

Photo used under CC.

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About Author


Patricia Hanahoe-Dosch is an Associate Professor of English at Harrisburg Area Community College, Lancaster campus. She holds an MFA from the University of Arizona. Her poems have been published in Rattle, Confrontation, The Red River Review, San Pedro River Review, Red Ochre Lit, Nervous Breakdown, The Poetry Super Highway, Quantum Poetry Magazine, among others. Her second book of poems, The Wrack Line, was recently published by FutureCycle Press in June 2017.

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