Thursday, January 22, 2015


The night Henry James slept in the palazzo's library
Under a pink canopy, one of the Venetian ghosts
Stood outside the mosquito-netting and gently coughed.
Ghosts were nothing new to James; as a young man,
Newport, he had for a while been an exorcist
Until he found his sympathies were not with the living.
Sleepily he asked the ghost, in fair Italian,
What it wanted -- revenge, perhaps, or a debt's discharge
Which kept the spirit bound to earth or --
This being Venice, -- bound to water?
"I died unwronged, Ser," the ghost said,
"And what debts I had have long been paid.
What I ask of your courtesy is this:
Some day, when time permits, you might perhaps write
Of how careless it is to live so very easily
That other spirits must make it their care
To inform you that, looking the wrong way,
You long ago slipped over death's border."

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