Molly Sutton Kiefer

Thoughts on a Haunting

1. They ask me if it bothers me, that someone hanged themselves from the beam in our basement.

2. This man fought wildfires before he died. He watched the prairies burn.

3. My mother is still living, but she is already masterful at haunting.

4. I say no, this isn’t the haunted house, not like our previous one with the man on the stairs.

5. When the previous owner moved in, the one we bought the house from, there was nothing in the house, but in the basement, there were offerings left in a ring on the floor where he died.

6. My mother’s aura crackles around her. When my brother-in-law first heard her diagnosis, he said he never thought he’d feel sorry for cancer.

7. I first saw the man on the stairs in the middle of the night, before we had children. He wore a suit, brown tweed, and was built squared, like my own grandfather or the old man in Up.

8. My mother told me the story of the man who traveled the world with his wife’s ashes, leaving a pinch of her everywhere he thinks she would have loved to see. I think, but do not say, my father would never do that.

9. The man on the stairs looked right at me when I sat up in bed beside my husband and cocked his finger, as if telling me come here.

10. I never saw any evidence, but sometimes I look up and wonder which beam he chose, which would support a firefighter’s load.

11. My mother is shrinking: the chemo has her hair in drifts, her bones, pocked. She is taking classes on managing her anger, but she is still angry.

12. I paint wildflowers on my wrists to show her: I will carry her with me.

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Molly Sutton Kiefer is the author of the lyric essay Nestuary as well as three poetry chapbooks. You can find her work in Orion, The Journal, The Colorado Review, among others. Molly is working on her PhD in literature, where she will focus on queer ecopoetics. She is the founding editor of Tinderbox Poetry Journal and runs the nonprofit press Tinderbox Editions. Molly currently teaches in Minnesota, where she lives on three acres of woods with her family.