Northern Elegies
Third Elegy

Living in that house was very scary,
and nothing, not the patriarchal light
from the fireplace, nor my baby’s cradle,
nor that both of us were young
and full of plans and high intentions—
none of this reduced that sense of fright.
And I had learned to laugh at it
and always left a drop or two of wine
and breadcrumbs for the one who came at night,
who, doglike, scratched upon the door,
or looked in through our low, small window,
while we, our conversation stilled, tried not
to see the goings-on behind the looking glass,
or guess whose weighted tread upon the steps
of the dark staircase made them groan
as if piteously begging to be spared.
And smiling strangely, you would say,
“Who is it they are carrying downstairs?”

Now that you’re there, where all is known, tell me:
What lived inside that house aside from us?


Translation © Margo Shohl Rosen