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The Hurricane Lamp

The ghost of the nineteenth century
still stalks the eaves
of the hurricane house, its clapboard sheaves
tightened against the fall of mercury.

Or Mercury, perhaps. What messenger
knocked upon the gate
like that furtive blow of '38
that broke the Horseneck to tinder

and drove the dories up Main Road?
Not the harpy who lived next door,
reduced in dotage to a single floor.
Her yards each spring would at last explode

in frothy crowns of dandelion.
Not the rough-throated bachelor
who strode the boards of his back boudoir.
Not the black-skirted preacher who rattled of Zion.

All dead of natural causes.
No, just some half-hearted nor'easter,
a door-to-door drummer
selling the future, and other losses.

The whaler's saltbox stood the blow
beneath the oriole's hanging nest.
My father lit the lamp in his Sunday vest.
We sat years later under the glow.

William Logan

Virginia Quarterly Review

Spring 2013

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