Moving On

by Alarie Tennille

Mr. Selby carved the S
in the mantel, planted
the roses, laid the parquet,
but couldn’t lay himself to rest.
Put so much into the house
it was a natural choice
for a second body when his
gave out.

 

“Come in, Mr. Selby!” we’d shout
at dinner when the heavy front
door swung in. He loved to smell
Mama’s cooking, but would open
cupboards looking for something
else to eat.

 

Not many families can name
their ghosts, but Mama woke
one night to see him sitting
on the end of her bed, said she
wasn’t frightened. To prove her
theory, she asked an elderly neighbor
to describe Mr. Selby, who had
died only six years before my family
moved in.

 

We’d hear his tread on the stairs,
had to put latches on bedroom
doors to keep them shut—
shut tight as my eyes, not
wanting to see even a friendly
old man visiting my sleep.

 

Eventually we moved to a new
house. For a few years my family
rested in peace. Then the Selby
house was bulldozed. Stained
glass and wainscoting buried.
Queen Anne passing away
beneath an apartment block.

 

That’s when Mr. Selby joined
us in the burbs. By now he’d
learned to dial the phone.
We wondered who was taking
his calls.

 

Alarie Tennille was born and raised in Portsmouth, Virginia, with a genius older brother destined for NASA, a ghost and a yard full of cats. She graduated from the University of Virginia in the first class admitting women. She now lives in Kansas City, Missouri, where she serves on the Emeritus Board of The Writers Place. Her poems have been published in numerous journals, including Southern Women’s Review and Wild Goose Poetry Review. 

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3 COMMENTS
  • Sylvia Vaughn / April 12, 2019

    I like the warm tone to this poem with its disturbing undercurrent. Thanks for publishing such good work!

  • Share Valleau / April 12, 2019

    I recall a mention of a ghost in the bio section of other beloved Alarie Tennille poems. However, I believe this is the first time his story has been told in detail, exposing his endearing antics. As one grateful ghost roommate to another, I love this!

  • Alarie Tennille / June 25, 2019

    Thank you, Sylvia and Share. You are correct, Share. This is the first time I’ve named the ghost who haunted my childhood.

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