The Folly (poem-story)
I appreciate I’ve been not working hard
I’ve been accused of haunting without spirit
Always a proper subject at a dinner
Always a diner eager to try himself
Sorrowing eyes that by mid-course will make themselves
Felt in the bones, couched in marbles in stucco
‘Ugly as sin,’ smiles the host. ‘An authentic Victorian folly.’
When they’d decided to shore up the tower
Cocked up the drainage way down to the river
Got it backed up, somehow, in the underground chambers
They hadn’t supposed—for not knowing better
That water draws the dead.
‘Some battle centuries ago, do you think?’
‘No, we have tried to expel them with every known dialect.
These are ancient ghosts, my guest.’
‘My Host,’ the candidate raises his glass.
The bell is pulled and the front door cracked.
‘Melancholy,’ someone mutters. ‘Place smells like mildew.’
‘That will be Calmacott,’ the guest tells the host.
‘His brother had, during the war, deserted. Thinks he
must be still hereabouts.’
About to sip at his cocoa, he starts.
‘Uncanny,’ says the host. ‘Can’t be helped. I catch one of them
now and then, myself.’
Calmacott enters. ‘Wrong of me,’ he says, ‘waiting to be invited.’
He also flings a nervous hand, taken aback.
‘What! Do you mean…?’
He is staring at the ladder. The guest gives Calmacott a broad smirk.
‘Friend, you’ve come all this way through the snow. But if you can’t
bear roughing it, go.’
‘Well, if he’s here, he’ll answer to English,’
remarks the host, his manner knowing and kind.
‘I know of no reason,’ Calmacott says, ‘to think him dead. That
is not my thought at all.’
Marbles, in their hundreds, wink in the firelight.
(2017, Stephanie Foster)