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The Seamstress and the Ghost Shrouds


The Seamstress and the Ghost Shrouds
by James P. Roberts

For as long as she can remember
She has created clothes for ghosts.
Each age poses exquisite challenges
As burial customs change, sometimes
Overnight. The easiest shrouds are made
For those who are laid in the ground
Bare as the day they were born:
The hardest, the forms of victims
Of explosive violence: then, even the ghosts
Need to be reconstituted, body parts
Brought together as spectres, measured
For appropriate size and texture

           &

Her hands exist in both realms.
Agile, adept, weaving thin white threads
Through her ancient changeable loom.
Not all shrouds need to be white,
But she will not use black thread:
To do so invites the wearer to a doom
Far greater than ever imagined.
For Mardi Gras, Kwanzaa, Cinco De Mayo
Or other cultural festivals, the shrouds
Explode in luminous colors. At night,
The cemetery morphs into a riotous bacchanal.
Ghosts have always known how to dance

          &

She has had many lovers—both male
And female: when they die, she takes the utmost
Care with their shrouds. This way some part
Of them still lives, still aware, still wanting
Her haunting embrace, her tenuous cloth,
Her nebular lips: the kiss of a pristine death
Remembered. As there will always be ghosts
Eventually wandering to her door, the seamstress
Continues to work, creating her own surprising shroud.

* * *

James P. Roberts is the author of four collections of poetry (Derne Runes, Spirit Fire, Dancing With Poltergeists and A Demon In My View). Recent work has been published in Rosebud, Weirdbook and Zingara Poetry Review. He lives in Madison, Wisconsin, where he hosts a weekly radio poetry show, ‘A Space For Poetry’, on WWMV-LP 95.5 FM.

Where do you get the ideas for your poems?
Many of my poems originate in dreams. ‘The Seamstress’ poems are an example where I’ve dreamt of a woman perpetually creating works of magic on her ancient loom.

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