(For Timothy Neumann)
It’s haunted, they say
though you’d never know it
from the rocking chairs in front,
the white double-decker porch,
wallpaper adorned with limp roses,
the lavender soap and starched sheets
as if designed by a maiden aunt who read
too many English Town & Country magazines.
The old innkeeper, Cora Carlisle,
slipped from her fragile sheath
years ago. Sometimes she appears
in her nightdress down the hall. She’s there
to keep the guests in order, tapping them
on the shoulder if they’re up too late.
Once she tipped two guests from bed
when the inn caught fire.
Herschel haunts room 148. He slides
under the door and bounces off the walls,
a ball of sparkling light, making a mess
when guests are gone. He throws books
around the room and pulls all the tissues
from the box. Waiters see pitchers slide
self-propelled across the bar and feel
their elbows tugged when serving soup.
How do these mismatched ghosts
get along at Christmas? What do they feel
when they see a manger behind
their former inn? When calves
and pigs, donkeys, goats,
and even a camel and a yak
come to see Mary and Joseph,
and a real baby Jesus, welcomed at last?
Pamela Cranston is the author of four books: The Madonna Murders (2003), Coming To Treeline: Adirondack Poems (2005), Searching for Nova Albion (2019) and her forthcoming book The House of Metaphor (2023). Many of her poems, essays and reviews have been published in journals such as: the Adirondack Review, the Anglican Theological Review, Blueline, Crosswinds Poetry Journal, The Naugatuck Review and Windhover plus many others. Searching for Nova Albion was a semi-finalist winner in the Poetry Society of Virginia 2020 North American Poetry Contest. Her poem “My Grandfather’s Typewriter” won 5th place in the 2020 Writer’s Digest Poetry Contest. Her poem “The House of Metaphor” won honorable mention for the Poetry Society of Virginia 2021 Edgar Allan Poe Memorial Prize. Her poem, “Summer in Deerfield,” won 1st place for the Elizabeth J. Urquhart Memorial Prize in 2023 sponsored by the Poetry Society of Virginia. Pamela is a retired Episcopal priest serving in the Diocese of California.