For 36 years, Gail Denham’s writing and photos have appeared in many publications. This year, Denham had poems in Blanket Stories, Sin Fronteras, Distilled Lives, Pegasus, Grist, and other anthologies. She’s won prizes in state contests: Founder’s Prize in National Poetry contest, Chicagoland, Highland Park; her poem and photo were used in Postcards/Prose. Denham belongs to a dozen state poetry associations and leads workshops at Northwest Writing Conferences. She’s produced three poetry chapbooks. Denham enjoys making folks laugh. Off-kilter, nostalgic, or plays on words give her pleasure. Favorite writers: William Stafford and Wilma Elizabeth McDaniel (the Okie poet).
No one doubted he’d be back; at least his spirit.
Pete was that way – ever present, even after
his coffin hit the bottom of that final hole.
The mournful dirge echoing from the organ
in the small church had barely faded into foggy
air when Pete’s presence was felt all over town,
especially in the old claptrap house he’d built
from scrap lumber, driftwood logs, stolen fences
and discarded shower doors.
Twenty-six years Pete called this hodgepodge
dwelling home, even piping in water (purloined
from a neighbor’s well); installing a compost toilet.
No electric of course. No phone. His heat source
a huge oil barrel stove that smoked a lot;
occasionally lit the walls on fire.
One day someone found Pete lying on his rickety
porch, bludgeoned with an axe handle that still lay
over his legs. No one questioned why. Pete didn’t make
friends. His jollies were bragging in the pub on the pier
about treasures he’d found in sunken boats right outside
the harbor – and copping drinks from tourists.
Now on dark nights, teens roamed between stunted, wind-bent
trees on his property (in groups of course) hoping to find
treasures of the renowned doppelganger, Pete.
A few refused to go near there twice in a row, claiming Pete
wasn’t dead after all. The whole funeral was a hoax to lure
curious searchers to their doom,
whatever that might be; perhaps trapped in Pete’s crumbling
house, staring at the stars through the shower door roof.