The dead sent me a delegation last night
The men were in elaborate formal clothes
Tail coats, top hats; ready, if needs be,
To discuss the surrender of Japan.
The women wore long dresses and broad hats
Prepared for dowager walk-ons in early
Edith Wharton novels. Their leader asked me
Why do you fear us? We wish the living well;
Do you not get our messages? Put on a sweater;
Water the cactus; avoid peacock feathers
Which bring no luck with them. Never give a knife
As a gift unless you wish the friendship
To be cut off. Your cats rise when we enter;
Your dog backs stiff-legged into a corner
But you try to ignore us, reading your book
When we bring instructions -- urgent instructions! –
On the only proper way to fold laundry
Or clues to the hidden names of God.
The abyss has not eyes to see; it borrows mine,
I brace myself, ready to be seen through.
Then it returns them and I discover
It ignored me, distracted by a squirrel.