Look at me. I’m standing on a deck
in the middle of Oregon. There are
people inside the house. It’s not my
house, you don’t know them.
They’re drinking and singing
and playing guitars. You love
this song. Remember? “Ophelia.”
Boards on the windows, mail
by the door. I’m whispering
so they won’t think I’m crazy.
They don’t know me that well.
Where are you now? I feel stupid.
I’m talking to trees, to leaves
swarming on the black air, stars
blinking in and out of heart-
shaped shadows, to the moon, half-
lit and barren, stuck like an ax
between the branches. What are you
now? Air? Mist? Dust? Light?
What? Give me something. I have
to know where to send my voice.
A direction. An object. My love, it needs
a place to rest. Say anything. I’m listening.
I’m ready to believe. Even lies, I don’t care.
Say, burning bush. Say, stone. They’ve
stopped singing now and I really should go.
So tell me, quickly. It’s April. I’m
on Spring Street. That’s my gray car
in the driveway. They’re laughing
and dancing. Someone’s bound
to show up soon. I’m waving.
Give me a sign if you can see me.
I’m the only one here on my knees.
Dorianne Laux, a greatly admired American poet, is Poet in Residence at North Carolina State University and also teaches for the Pacific University Low Residency MFA Program in Oregon. “Trying to Raise the Dead” is from her collection Smoke, published by BOA Editions, Ltd. ©, and is reprinted with permission. The author’s photo is by Jeanne C. Finley.