A Modest Halloween Proposal

It sometimes seems clear if there is an afterlife it does not interfere with present life. But what is present? The light from our sun is already a little over eight seconds old. We sunbathe in the past, confident in a present we never quite seem to fully inhabit (physics explains it’s perfectly possible to split infinitives). Where then do we go? Maybe time is a question of physics, maybe of metaphysics – the things that may come after the physics.

The dead seem an extremely polite bunch. They do not intrude. Looking for them is like searching for aliens. We may feel their presence, approach them with the telescope of faith, but if they exist, somewhere-somehow, that life lies far far beyond the present five senses. To prove an afterlife, if we want to believe in ghosts and such, we must create a sense beyond our given five.

William Blake noticed angels out and about. Rilke claimed to have seen one. What is it about poets that make them easy prey for such notions? Wouldn’t it be a bit frightful if the first aliens the astronomers discover turn out to be previous earthlings? The problem with communicating with the dead may simply be the length of time their message takes to reach us. By the time the first message from the first dead reaches Earth, we may all be gone. What would the message say? Trick or Treat?

I take no issue with the dead. Nor am I looking forward to meeting any aliens. Let them keep their distance. My problem seems to be sugar: to wit, candy – the Halloween tradition (in these parts).

This year, instead of passing out candy, I propose to hand out poems. Short poems printed on three by five cards, maybe with a cartoon or drawing on one side of the card. I’ll drop a poem card into every little critter’s Halloween basket. No candy. No sugar.

But when I mentioned the idea to Susan, she said, “We’ll get our house egged for sure.”

“You think? With the cost of dairy these days?”

“And the parents will accuse you of poisoning their kids with poetry. Besides, Halloween cards are nothing new. And poetry, while sugar free, is still very high in carbs and calories, not to mention saturated and trans fats.”

So much for my proposal. I guess we’re sticking with candy.

Costume Chitchat

A Cat's Halloween Costume
“Are you going incognito again for Halloween?”

“For Halloween this year,
I’m going as myself.
No one will recognize me.
Won’t that be scary?”

“Last year, you might recall,
I went happily as you,
boo-b00ing and who-wh00ing
up and down the haunted block.”

“Once, I went as my father,
and was tricked to snake out
a bewitched litter box.
Dad thought that was a treat.”

“I used to go as my mother
and stay home and pass out
the treats and clean up
after the tricks.”

“Remember the year you dressed
as an octopus? Your purple pelisse
swept the falling leaves, the swish
the only sound across the street.”

“It’s been my habit lately
to sneak out as a house cat,
playing with the position
of my ears and tail – Purrr.”

“Well, for Halloween this year,
I’m going as I am.
No one will know me.
Won’t that be ghostly?”

At the Pumpkin Patch

Pumpkin Man

The frizzled farmer pushing the pulling, tired draft horse,
his jeans ballooning like pantaloons pinched into rubber boots
sunk and stuck like squash in the shallow fall mud,
his arms swollen loofahs lifting pumpkins up to the children
riding on sweet smelling, dry hay bales in the wagon,
has a “Head like a prize pumpkin,” as Joyce’s Bloom thought
of Tom Wall’s son, and Tom, the frazzled farmer,
declaring this his last pumpkin patch harvest,
prods the horse (whose name is Wally) and wagon to a stop.

The pumpkin picking party hops to the ground and disperses,
and the children caper around the pumpkin field,
Papas and Mamas and Nanas snapping photos orange and blue,
until the farmer calls the pumpkin pickers back to the wagon.

The farmer is a frayed man, his wife explains to a group
waiting patiently at the scales, fretting this pumpkin crop falls sparse,
but that’s just his way, and anyhow, who can talk at a time like this,
all these potential faces, all fat orange cheek puffed, twist handled hair,
heads picked and packed, jugs full of orange pie mash and seeds?

Out in the pumpkin patch, empty faces pass into ooze,
a few pumpkin seeds carried up by blackbirds
and dropped in the next field over, that fallow acre
empty of people picking and parsing
for the right ripe pumpkin, the perfect possible
face, in bed of wet gray hair, muted mouth,
flute feature deadpan face.
A field of plump birds erupts in applause
as a curtain of spitting rain starts to fall.