“I had turned 30, the age for casting out ghosts”
—Susan Swan (The Biggest Modern Woman of the World)
At twenty-nine, of course, I cast out demons.
Bit of an ordeal—financial health-check, chants,
a spew of bilious nostalgia and proverbial baby tees,
qualms and idiosyncratic oscillations driven out.
In the third month, there was a week I sat alone
with a sticky Celtic knot, be-daisied memory boxes
and got over myself sucking face with Asmodei,
riding Geryon into Malebolge,
flashing my shit to summon Ashtaroth,
raising the devil’s red-tipped horns
to youth gone dutifully wild.
And dutiful, I penciled these things in, recited
the vituperative litany, erased my tapes,
increased my monthly payments and disabled
two email addresses at the appointed times.
For many years, I lived a nightmare of effusive skeletons,
calculating and re-calculating risks that never panned.
This kept me stretched so thin I was diaphanous in sunlight,
disappeared entirely in banks and public sector buildings.
But to threaten banishment would only rouse the ghosts
out of their complacent, seasonal routines. It’s not like 1997
levitates the bed or smears the walls with glitzy ectoplasm.
Smoking at Dusk
I couldn’t tell you what
I used to think the full moon meant.
Unlikely pairings, certain sex.
Restoration or disclosure, deus ex
Watching another coincident rise and set,
I try not to believe that’s all it is: another.
Don’t forget. I could be blissed guileless,
arched and stark in the dapple.
Inside, the house is loud
with lovers meeting over corpses,
kneeling to inspect for entry wounds.
I can hear them blaring from the deck,
citing cause of death in synch,
torqueing the procedural to keep each other safe.
I’m sure we’d do no less.
I always come back in
to watch them wipe the knives.
We both know how this one ends.
I rinse my hands conspicuously,
rearrange our spoons.
Jennifer Houle’s work has appeared in numerous literary journals, including The Antigonish Review, Arc Poetry Magazine, The Fiddlehead, Contemporary Verse 2, Prairie Fire, and Room. She has been the recipient of the Writer’s Federation of New Brunswick’s Alfred G Bailey Award and The Antigonish Review’s Great Blue Heron Poetry Prize. She lives in Hanwell, NB.