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Ghost House 

by Sylvia Baedorf Kassis 

 

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Every night  

you leave your black rubber clogs on the porch  

a small pile of scrubs in the front hall 

            and hurry upstairs to shower 

before the children can hug you 

It’s been a year of us being at home 

and you back and forth to the hospital 

where only a select few can be 

            a large button with a picture of your smiling face  

the only way to know what you actually look like 

 

But yours are not the patients you ever really converse with anyway 

            such is the nature of the medicine you practice 

instead you learn the bits and pieces that make up a life from family members 

 

The devastated wife 

the children steeling themselves 

the feuding siblings 

or in one case 

            on Father's Day no less 

the man with grave regrets about his relationship with his now dead son 

 

During the bad weeks 

when there's a surge in cases 

or for some reason more than the anticipated allotment of patients are dying

             you don't say much about what you're feeling 

but I am certain you are carrying a part of them back to us

I can't help but imagine the soul released 

the body electric suddenly in stillness and 

the lingering wisp of whatever energy remains after death 

            attaching itself to you  

like swirling gray smoke emanating  

from the ash of the end of days 

tendrils wrapped around you  

            that slowly  

                          unfurl 

                                  into  

                                        our  

                                             house 

 

A spirit on the stairs 

another in the rocking chair 

two in the guest bedroom 

 

Welcome  

I think 

when I catch a glimpse  

of a shadowy new figure 

out of the corner of my eye 

There is a place for you here 

            Our home is yours now too.

Spirit Birds of the Pandemic 

by Sylvia Baedorf Kassis

Twice 

Wild storms have blown through 

And in their wake 

Each has left a dead bird 

Like an empty offer 

In front of my blue house. 

 

I am not superstitious 

Or else I might wonder  

What additional grey-tinged tragedy their arrivals forecast. 

 

First it was a tiny starling 

All acute angles and pink skin 

Tossed from its spring nest 

Drowned in the gutter 

And spit out in the dirt  

With the downpipe’s rush of rain water. 

We buried the broken body under our purple azalea bush 

And my six-year-old fashioned a grave marker  

Out of shells and stones.

Another morning 

Just a few weeks later 

A brown-headed cowbird 

Stiff with death from an indeterminate cause 

Was discovered lying in front of our porch 

As though it was sleeping. 

 

Will it be OK? 

Asked my yellow-haired preschooler 

Squatting on the sidewalk 

Peering closely at the lifeless creature. 

It’s dead. 

My colorless response met with indignance 

I know, mom. But will it be OK? 

I considered the question more carefully  

And tried again 

I suppose, yes; it will.

 

The boys took turns carrying a small shovel  

The boxed bird surprisingly weightless in my hands 

As we ventured from our hillside home 

In search of the mysterious vernal pool 

Hidden in a thicket of ancient redwoods 

For a burial service amongst the songs and calls of brethren. 

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Sylvia Baedorf Kassis, MPH, is a research professional from Toronto, now living in Boston. Her work has appeared in Literary Mama and Jane Austen's Wastebasket, and is forthcoming in The Syndrome Mag.

Photos by Iannis Delatolas and Pexels