The Night Of The Soul

By Peter Halstead

To Bob and Jackie

The rain above our antique bed
Starts slowly, tapping like the dead
               Who must inhabit houses old as this.
               I fumble for my useless glasses
In the bracing country dark,
Surrounded by the spark
               Of ghostly pilgrim Calvinists
               Assembling in the trendy mists
That swirl around the windowpane
In the creaking moral rain.
               Why is it that night perturbs?
               This is, after all, the burbs:
Not some wild and slick tableau
In a limerick by Poe.
               But the rain persists,
               Pounding now with human wrists,
Pulling at the wooden sashes
In between the lightning flashes.
               The ceiling comes alive with clatters
               That could only come from satyrs;
Never mind the Methodists:
Baal dances on his fists.
               We hug each other between batters,
               Realizing that nothing matters:
The soul isn't very acrobatic
When there's something in the attic.
               (It's somehow rude to take a breath
               When in the room with noisy death.)
What little solace is the dawn
When in seconds we'll be gone?
               The rain takes shape upon the ceiling:
               The demon is above us now, and kneeling.
The chasm in the gutter surges,
And eternal nothingness emerges.
               But quickly as it came, it goes;
               The spatter on the shingles slows,
And terror, suddenly urbane,
Gurgles sleekly down the drain,
               Luther's sly ventriloquist
               Come to tell us we exist:
More than any argument, such fear
Indicates that we are really here—
               The sodden spirit needs a devil
               To hint that we are on the level.
Although the room is wreathed in black,
Sconce and hearth come flooding back,
               And early morning in Pound Ridge,
               We hear the humming of the fridge.

Pound Ridge
April 23rd, 1994