Portrait of the Ghost by Melissa Cundieff-Pexa


Imagine the dog’s chapel, squat, and its rooms lined with bowls of cool water from which to lap and lap. God in German is Gott, short and clipped. Deep in the dialect of birthdays, deep in chocolate cake, you’re reminded of this, God or Gott, when he too turned thirty and homesick and felt fragile as a schnauzer’s curls. You think it’s impossible to enter the dialogue of the living.

You’re digging in the cold again and don’t know why. To be the bones of a rabid dog that has bitten its owner would be very good. Finally done with panting, howling at wood smoke, burying hope, music, and weather with things not meant for the animal world. Bargaining is like death, you reckon. For the promise of a steak, purse your lips and blow to the sky that which your mother threw down and shed from her body like winter pollen. Say, I’ll stick my lips in the punch bowl, right in.

You, not young or old, but dressed for death, will never die. Scribble, even the cigarettes and champagne are nuanced, and January, lit. Now burn what you’ve written with the trash and then watch as the ashes fall like your mother’s loving discipline. In any language, death means the same thing: despite yourself, you are always faithful.




Melissa Cundieff-Pexa received an MFA from Vanderbilt and will pursue a PhD at Binghamton University in fall 2015. The recipient of an Academy of American Poets Prize and two Pushcart nominations, her poems are forthcoming or have appeared in journals such as Bat City, Mid-American, Gargoyle, Phantom Limb, Fjords, Iron Horse, and The Collagist, among others. The author of a chapbook, Futures with Your Ghost, she lives in Ithaca, NY with her family.