The Approach, Dilemma; The Dead Come In


What makes a winter?
Is it a gain of snow on bough
or lack of leaf on tree?
The belief in summer to come
or doubt in change as small
as the greening of the grass?

Should one approach cold
with resignation to be of the cold
to feel pain that knows only
numbness as relief,
to embrace discomfort
in masochistic friendship?

Or, with frantic fight
instead make fire light, clap hands,
bundle body in thick garments
wrap around you blankets tight
and soft with the promise
of kinder times to come?

Is bitter air a battle call
to become an alchemist
who, with shaking fist of will
makes nature name you Master,
transfiguring base and broken
Matter into miracle cures?

Or does the bite in your bones
advise a time for stasis,
hibernation even, in any case
a relinquishment of responsibility
and a ceding to what sojourns
a mind may make in dreams?

There’s a tear in the curtain over there, you see
it gaping and gawping at you so brazenly.
There’s a tear in the curtain, should we peek
through tattered fabric and find what may be found

Our minds will surely be different when
all this peeking is done, broadened in ways unpredictable.
We may be given access to dark vistas,
stretching in every direction, a blackness to shame night,
perhaps, impenetrable and foreign somehow
so terribly foreign as to make us flee
from the curtain and abjure all tears that offer peeks.

Or will we find light unearthly at first in majesty,
pouring through hearts long world-weary,
rejuvenating receding minds pulled inward on themselves
like curled shells, first feeling they can safely unfurl,
yet soon too bright, too bright to look at long and bear,
so that wrong we will feel again
to have ever gone peeking through tears.

If we were really to look closely,
after gathering all that tiresome courage,
we would probably just spy a neighbor
mowing his lawn, a practical person oblivious
to people with peeking curtain dilemmas.
And that would be the worst of all possibilities
to glimpse only those things which are
Through so rare an event as a tear in the curtain.

It’s said the dead are lost to us,
but my experience is they’re not;
with rude reliability I find
it’s the living always leaving,
but the dead come in,
and do not stop.

The living often make dramatic
exits, flee from fire escapes,
drop to the ground, run down the street;
their going brief as lightning streaks.
Yet slowly, steadily the dead come in
and will not stop.

The dead relish revolving doors
so, they’re always going in and out,
in and out pressed against glass
that’s straining, cracking, growing thin:
they’re really always coming in,
and never think to stop.

Encountering those dead you knew alive
is always awkward at best, for
memory tested teeters off the brink,
askew, like the sickening wink of a clown
so, you fall down and they walk up,
and barely recognized, they do not stop.

Dead or simply gone away are both the same,
being different ways to say “I’ll haunt you.”
But I would give so much to find
a secret rhyme you chant to make the living stay
and the dead forever keep away.
I lose the living, draw the dead
and well I know that this is law,
like the orbit of the Earth
this circle mustn’t alter or unknot
of how the dead eternally return to us.
Yet, I’m begging, make it stop.


M.H. Adelmann is a lifelong writer of poetry and prose based in Maryland. A musician, painter, and fiber artist, she takes odd jobs to support her passions while taking care of her demanding cat family. She studied English and Philosophy and is a voracious learner. She writes because she frankly cannot stop herself.