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Death's Good Counsel

Death says, "Don't listen to them. Don't invite them in. Blow out those black candles, put away your high school Ouija board, unclasp your hands, and throw open the curtains when you catch the scent of oranges or roses, feel a heaviness on the bed, see a solid silhouette, find your milk drunk or soured, jewelry and shoes moved, wine turned to vinegar, mind to the afterlife. Even face-to-face with a manifestation, don't acknowledge its nonexistence. Spirits feed on courtesies. They will stumble, confused, about your floral bedroom. They'll linger on the basement stairs, pulsing with electricity. They'll lie in the iridescent green pooling under pedestrian bridges. They won't mean to harm you, but they will: a big wind to your mobile home of a body. Don't believe their stories. Like the demimonde, they can't help lying." His girlfriend won't listen to him. She throws out his sprigs of rosemary and his pepper spray to plead with her dead mother, "Mama, do anything. Torment me. Terrify me. Just don't leave me with nothing." Death says, "Dearest, don't you know the toughest ghosts to get rid of are those that won't visit?"


first published in Parhelion Literary Review