Alice Notley – Diversey Street

I’m in a house that’s too big

the Diversey St. house

Ted sees a ghost a young girl

cross the kitchen and disappear

through the door that leads upstairs

I don’t exactly believe that or

maybe I believe I’m the

ghost myself, asleep, and

awake at the same time

haunting my house. I see two

pieces of shattered glass full of light

you and I sleeping. Climb down in the dark

down into the basement or

up where the guests might lie.

Only walk free, only released

from fear in my sleep.


Aureoles of lamps are too bright, awake.

I’ve written a failed poem of lilacs.

Can I ever forgive myself for my thoughts,

for my fear of a crazed demise?

In this pointlessness of modern

physicality, this body, admired house.


And then someone says,

I think you should write happier poems.

More than once I’m asked to deny

my experience.

The weight of this house’s shadows.

I’m so in it now

As a ghost I am perhaps from the future.

Ghost in an own life of mine.

Because fear blocks the door

And can’t I bring the baby to the future.

I can’t believe the future comes

except as tragedy

I let smug men say things about my poems.

Am I trying to turn into

a smug man so I – fear sits on I

so I won’t be afraid, I guess.


And deeper still

who’s afraid, It is I.

Below who’s afraid’s the one who isn’t.

The ghost from the future. I almost

believe I will prevail

when I’m asleep and the future

haunts this house.

– from Mysteries of small houses, 1998