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The Dead Are Watching Us

Barry Dempster
From:   Fire and Brimstone. Montreal : Empyreal Press, 1997

The dead are watching us... grandfathers,
great-aunts with faces yellow as bungalow bricks,

distant pioneers administering desire in long
lingering looks, their stone-cold irises enthralled.

They are in love with the sleek black carpets
of our driveways, the bundles of rhubarb

soaking in stainless steel sinks, the tiny rubber skiffs
floating pink ovals of soap across our steamy tubs.

They are longing for luxury, for contentment,
those hammocks stretched between elms

and telephone poles, those toffee-coloured Buicks
purling at the curbs like Burmese cats,

those silver-threaded clotheslines spinning
with lusty sheets. They are green as cut stems,

as bleeding grass, with envy.

What would they give to sink their bones
in our broadloom, to squeeze their hands

down our elastic waistbands, to collapse on
our porcelain thrones? Eternity

for the blue pulse of a TV set, the chill
of a dinner bell, the creak of a back fence

as it divides us into conversations and families.
They would lie or steal for the opportunity

of sleeping next to us, cotton bums as soft
as lettuce leaves, nipples the size of rosebuds.

They would kill us for our silverware, our cameras,
our Christmas tree angels, those assets

proving we're alive, the crystal butter dish,
the walnut pipe, the painting of a long-haired Christ

whose eyes are blessing everything he sees.
The dead detest us for all of it, our accordions,

our clothespins, our bowls of red-hot porridge.
They can't wait for us to retire from

this luck, a gruesome heart attack or snivelling
cancer cell. Once we've recovered from the thrill

of our souls floating over the Scarborough Bluffs,
we will know exactly what it's like to watch

how much we've left behind.

Barry Dempster's works copyright © to the author.

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