The House in the Hollow
Terry Thomas

The house in the hollow
is empty.  Nobody lives there—
distorted lines meet in corners,
greet the silence; rooms are filled
with nothing, but something’s there.

Played with her when we were children.
Her dad rented from my dad
(a sensible arrangement), and he worked
when he could, but he was
bad to her.  Some days her eyes were
cloudy, skin was blue—I knew. . .

The house in the hollow
is on hallowed ground.  Could tear
it down and plant something,
may be crops, but I stop when I think
of her, cloudy eyes and all.

She smelled of soap and licorice—
not candy (she never got that),
but as extract to soften the blue
of bruised skin.

The house in the hollow
is empty of the living.
I own it now and will leave
it to slow dissolve.  I lose
resolve for destruction when
I spend an afternoon
with the silence,
and the smell of soap and licorice.

Dining with the Dead

There weren’t as many zombies from the woolen
mill next door as usual.
I was having my ritual cup of coffee and muffin,
still puffin’ a bit from my five a.m. run,
the diner a little warm for my heart rate.
It was later than usual for me:
I’d lain in bed a bit, feeling something pending,
but finally got my end going.  It was
snowing lightly when I started (second favorite
weather to fog), and I cut swaths through white
paths, feeling energized by the light kisses
on my cheek.  Took a peek in the gray varicose-
vein mirror and spotted her in the last booth.
Mousy wasn’t the right word — maybe just
lousy with fate, because she had a remnant
of beauty, like the last leaf on a hollow tree.
She was pressed against the far wall, face
in shadow from the poster of a circus
summers ago, faded as much as she was.
She had coffee and toast, and she was heaping
the dry husks with slabs of butter and
mounds of jelly, building a sandwich to carry
her through . . . to something.  Her summer clothes
were draped on her scarecrow frame, and you
could almost hear her stomach gurgle when she
put halves together and took her first bite.
I watched carefully as she chewed, slowly, took
another small bite, feeling the rhythm: bite,
chew, inhale — sip of coffee (another spoon of
sugar and dollop of cream).  Seemed like this
slow ritual would last forever, but she was
finally done.  She breathed deeply, dug deeper
into her pockets, reached the register and pushed
coins across the counter like burying dead relatives.
I looked at the booth and saw a dime reflect
the light of the sun struggling through the dirty
window.  She was at the door by then, shivered
while she buttoned her light jacket to the top
and stepped into the snowfall.  She paused as if
deciding on right or left.  I swallowed my last
sip of coffee, left half a muffin, patted the
switchblade in my Velcro pocket, for muggers and such,
and realized my morning exercise wasn’t done.