Rhabdomancie (or) Hallucinations
The old woman sits on her bones
just where the alley widens
for the garbage trucks. She is
always there. The bones
always surround her. She is
writing a letter. She is stabbing
plastic bottles with her pen.
She never turns or speaks. The wind
flips open the letter. It tells you
a man has slipped out the window
of the local nursing home. If
you look now, you can see him.
The helicopter he built is taking off,
the propeller whirling high and left.
The propeller blades are spokes
from his wheelchair, the landing
gear is a structure of bone. He
is going to Alaska, the letter says.
He has a bundle of rods--a rhabdomancie--
to douse for gold. His gold mines stretch
like northern lights across the whole
horizon. He has three thousand
head of cattle. One of them
you can see in the goldfield—wide
nostrils and standing on a single leg.
The old woman snatches up
the letter, adjusts her three-tiered
skirt. She pulls out a bundle
of dousing rods, says nothing,
but shoves them toward your feet.
You do not know what you are meant
to do. You do not know why fear
is trickling down your vertebrae.
If you reach for them and your hand
encounters nothing, will the old woman
and all her bones disappear? Will you be
alone in that alley as darkness sifts down?
If you touch and heft them, feeling
their weight, will you enter the gold field?
Will the old woman speak? Will she tell you
why no one else has seen her? Why
given time and circumstance,
our very thoughts can turn to bone?
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