Visitation, by Ruth Foley

Something has been marking the melt
overnight, prints rounding and mud-sunk.
The dogs are fascinated with the scat
the way I used to lift my great-grandmother’s
flapper dress out of an attic trunk as
a girl, her young world opening
a door so dim it might have been fiction.
We invent the things we want to see.

I have spent the winter singing
bone songs—a scapular thrumming
through and down has carried me
vertical, my feet not touching the path.
I have all the wrong clothes, the wrong
shoes, am waiting for an unexpected
guest, am at the window inscribing
my breath. Nothing has waited for me.

If something watched from the trees,
I did not see it. If something took up
the unwary mouse or kit, I did not
hear. And there has been more snow,
although it won’t stay long. There is
no fur, no tumbling indentation
blurred over with a scrim of white.
No scent to lead me anywhere now.


About “Visitation”: “I wrote the early drafts of this poem in early spring, which in New England is basically indistinguishable from winter. The roots of it are distressingly simple: the dogs were fascinated by some scat in the woods beside our house, and I couldn’t identify it—I’m reluctant to admit how long I spent online sorting through images of animal scat, but I’m comforted by the knowledge that if there are that many databases and such out there, at least I’m not alone. One of my more traditional (and lasting) fascinations is with hauntings—not horror movie ghosts, but the ideas that won’t let us be, or the idea of waiting for something to happen. This “something” can take almost any form, but just as often, people seem to simply wait for anything at all, and I wanted to explore that idea a bit: not just the subject waiting for the “something,” but the “something” also waiting—for what, I’m not sure we’re supposed to know. In the end, it’s a poem about loneliness. Waiting can be a very lonely business.”

Ruth Foley lives in Massachusetts, where she teaches English for Wheaton College. Her work appears in numerous web and print journals, including Antiphon, The Bellingham Review, The Louisville Review, and Sou’wester. Her chapbook Dear Turquoise is available from Dancing Girl Press. She serves as Managing Editor for Cider Press Review.

Ruth Foley

Ruth Foley

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