Here There Was a Stool with a Crippled Leg

By Young Smith

Featured Art: The Chair from The Raven by Édouard Manet, 1875

There are no ghosts in her rented house—
only the shadows of objects

removed by other tenants long ago.
Here there was a stool with a crippled leg,

here a bookshelf filled with fat Russian novels,
here an upright piano with wine-stained keys.

These furnishings have vanished, but their shapes continue—
like spots on the retina after looking at the sun . . .

Though she can find no path from one door
to the next where the shades of their sofas

don’t stand one within the other, of the former
tenants themselves, very little can be said . . .

The mirrors have collected the pale stories of their eyes,
but the glass is too crowded to tell them clearly—

yet even now, among the wraiths of hat trees
and recliners, where the dust of their voices

drifts like smoke along the baseboards,
she can often feel their sorrows, breathing

slowly in the corners, still alive
with a helpless longing to sleep.


Young Smith has received fellowships from the NEA and the Kentucky Arts Council. His poems have appeared in Poetry, Beloit Poetry Journal, The Iowa Review, Pleiades, Crazyhorse, The Harvard Divinity Bulletin, American Literary Review, Arts & Letters, Atlanta Review, The Midwest Quarterly, The New Orleans Review, and other publications. He is author of the collection, In a City You Will Never Visit, published by Greencup Books. He is an associate professor of English at Eastern Kentucky University, where he is a core faculty member with the Bluegrass Writers Studio, a low-residency MFA program.

Originally appeared in NOR 20.

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