When we went there,
the TV with the ghosts
would be on, and the father
talked and called out
every now and then to him,
sitting in that space
we always left around him,
Isn’t it, June? Or Aren’t
you, June? And June
would laugh like only his voice
was doing it and he was somewhere
else, so when the father
turned back to us like
he was enjoying his son’s
company, we could tell
he was on his way out,
too. Until at the end
he just sat saying nothing
all day into the dark.
Walking by there after chores,
we would see the blue light
from their TV, shifting
across the road in the trees,
and inside, those two dark
heads which had forgot
by this time even the cows.
So when the truck came
to take the manure-matted,
bellowing things to the slaughterhouse,
all we could say was, Thank God
for Liz. Who else
would have helped load them up,
then gone right on living
with that brother and father, dead
to the world in bib overalls,
while all around them
the fields had begun
to forget they were fields?
Who else would have taken
that town job, punching
shoelace holes all night
into shoes? So now
when we went, there
would be Junior and his father
in the front room of the farm
they did not remember,
wearing brand-new shoes
they did not even know
they wore, watching the TV
with ghosts. And there
would be Liz, with her apron on
over her pants, calling out
to them like they were only
deaf, Isn’t it?
or Aren’t you? and telling us
how at last they could have
no worries and be free.
And that thing was
that sometimes when we watched
them, watching those faces
which could no longer concentrate
on being faces, in the light
that shifted from news to ads
to sports, we could almost see
what she meant. But what
we didn’t see was
that she also meant
herself. That the very
newspapers we sat on
each time we brought her milk
or eggs were Liz’s own
slow way of forgetting all
the couches and chairs. Until
that last awful day
we went there
after her father died,
and after the state car
came to take June,
and we found just flour-
bags and newspapers and Liz,
with her gray pigtail
coming undone, and no idea why
we’d left our rock-strewn fields
to come. Then all
we could think to do
was unplug that damned
TV, which by now didn’t
have ghosts, only voices talking
beyond the continuous snow.
All we could do was
call her to come back
into her face and hands,
and Liz just watched
us, waving our arms,
like we weren’t even there,
like we were the ghosts.

– Wesley McNair