They arrive, quite uninvited, set up in their invisible folding chairs, tilt their unseen containers, and cross their weightless legs. They do not speak. You have already been drinking. Drinking and debating whether regret is a tiny, panicked bird thrashing in a cage or a comet burning toward a future intersection. The dead, as a rule, divulge no part of what they might have gathered from the other side. You do not ask them. You have just entered week eight of isolation. You know too much of late-stage claustrophobia to spoil their brief escape. They must return soon to cluttered attics, cobwebbed rafters of barn-red barns, or the drum-empty caverns of purgatory. So you sit. Sip in silence. Watch your two daughters pass back and forth like little actresses across the wide screen, the wind off the back field turning their hair to galloping horses. Your mother once told you she always knew you were not born for your own times, as if there had been some mixup between the assembly line and the timekeepers. In light of that, everything makes an approximate sort of sense. Anyway, the beer tonight is especially good. The world . . . remains the world. You are in it, for now. You get the feeling the dead appreciate your silence. After all, who are you to demand to know if the eye of God is anything more than the shape of an open flower?
JUSTIN HAMM is the author of three collections of poetry–The Inheritance, American Ephemeral, and Lessons in Ruin–as well as a book of photographs, Midwestern. He is the founding editor of the museum of americana. His poems, stories, photos, and reviews have appeared in Nimrod, Southern Indiana Review, The Midwest Quarterly, Sugar House Review, and a host of other publications.