Hesitant whistles. Then this wheezing laugh, / growing hysterical, like a dance-of-death

A man wearing a checkered blazer, glasses, and a fedora smiles and stares downward, against a bright pink background.
The Walrus

Listen, it’s haunted. Quavery metal ping,
clunk, then a long tense silence. This hiss. Low
or, rather, distant, banging or ratcheting
noises like basement renovations. Slow,

sustained sighs, growing hoarse. Huge pause for breath.
Hesitant whistles. Then this wheezing laugh,
growing hysterical, like a dance-of-death
devil’s tritone, toggling on a fife.

At last, that throat-clearing rasp, low and long,
of hot water boiling, and a jet of steam
whose high crazy glissando plainsong— 
poltergeist shrieking a baby’s scream.

James Pollock
James Pollock is the author of Sailing to Babylon, which was a finalist for the Griffin Poetry Prize and the Governor General’s Literary Award in Poetry. His latest book of poems is Durable Goods.

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