I moved into the haunted house
and gutted it to the bones. I wasn’t alone then,
and worked there as a team.
We evicted squirrels from their vast nutshell nest,
filled dumpsters with fifty years of trash.
I found three lit and ornamented trees in a pile of brush,
uncovered secret drawings in a drawer.
We tore up a floor to uncover a floor,
sanded tulip poplar to a sheen. I let
the others unhouse the rat snake
muscled around the boiler pipes downstairs.
They took it in a pail to Corlaer’s Creek
where it braided angrily away. I too
slithered in the muddy crawlspace,
headlamp sputtering with sweat.
When the house began to wake
the strangers began to arrive, driving their cars
up our long drive to have a proper snoop.
Uninvited, they told of Dutch Mary
rocking in her scarf, dead slaves
buried in a hollow up the hill, the wellhead
by the Indian trail where carriages stopped
to let their long-dead horses have a drink.
If you think this scared me, you’d be wrong.
I know a story meant to frighten when I hear one.
Now I live here alone with the spirits I cannot see.
I spend my days inside these rubble stone walls
cooking small meals and stoking logs into a smoking stove
while around me history stills to pictures in a frame—
the same clouded view for Old Dutch Mary
waiting at the window once again.