Summer 1996 • Vol. XVIII No. 3/4 Poetry |

Household Spirits

Halfway to heaven, high up on a pole, and the pole planted firmly in the earth, the martin house in my grandparents' backyard came back to me on the earth's other side when I saw the spirit houses in Thailand: miniature shrines for household gods placed on stands outside of every house where the shadow of the house will never fall. Astrologers determine the exact location and the right time to perform the ceremony: flowers are scattered and ritual waters poured to appease the spirits thought to bring happiness and prosperity to the household. But if everything is not done properly they can do evil and haunt the house itself. "Good spirits will not live where there is dirt," a Shaker saying goes, and I remember my grandfather telling me the birds would refuse the house if it wasn't neat enough. But they hadn't refused it, and a colony of purple martins lived in the many compartments— flighty utopians, the spirits of that farmhouse, gathering overhead in buoyant s

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Jeffrey Harrison’s fifth full-length book of poetry, Into Daylight, was published by Tupelo Press in April 2014 as the winner of the Dorset Prize and was a finalist for the Massachusetts Book Award in 2015. More recent work has appeared or is forthcoming in the Kenyon Review, The New Republic, The Yale Review, Best American Poetry, The New York Times Magazine, The Hudson Review, The Southern Review, and elsewhere.

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