The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: “System of Ghosts” by Lindsay Tigue

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“Abandoned Places”

The house on sinking Holland Island—
an old Victorian, shingles-crumbling,

the isle’s last structure falling into
the Chesapeake Bay.

Before it collapsed in 2010,
one couple rowed out there.

I click through their photos—
the house’s interior full of dusty

bottles, broken furniture. Their shots
of gulls in flight. A rusty tub. Their GPS

to guide them. They walked through
the island’s old cemetery, from its days

as village, where watermen lived
and dredged oysters in the bay.

The land has been sinking
for thousands of years. The water

rising ever more quickly. In
2003, hurricane waves rushed

through the kitchen. This place
of silt and clay knows how

to disappear. In 1995, one man
bought the island and wanted

to save it himself. The experts said
he never had a chance. He tried

building breakwaters out of wood.
He put down hundreds of sandbags,

lined large rocks against the shoreline.
Before it fell, that house appeared

to sit directly on the waves. The man
gave up the island after he turned

eighty, underwent chemotherapy.
The couple’s photos online show

his favorite grown-over headstone,
a girl’s grave that reads: Forget me not

is all I ask.


This selection comes from Lindsay Tigue’s collection System of Ghosts available now from University of Iowa Press. Purchase your copy here.

Lindsay Tigue is the author of System of Ghosts, winner of the 2015 Iowa Poetry Prize and published in April 2016 by the University of Iowa Press. She writes poetry and fiction and her work appears in Prairie SchoonerBlackbird, Indiana Reviewdiode, and Cream City Review, among other journals. She was a Tennessee Williams Scholar at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference and has received a James Merrill fellowship from the Vermont Studio Center. She is a graduate of the MFA program in Creative Writing and Environment at Iowa State University and is a current PhD student in Creative Writing at the University of Georgia. She works as the current assistant to the editors at the Georgia Review and lives in Athens, Georgia.

Staci R. Schoenfeld is a recipient of 2015 NEA Fellowship for Poetry, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Kentucky Foundation for Women, and residencies from the Ragdale Foundation and Albee Foundation. She is a PhD student at University of South Dakota, assistant editor for poetry at South Dakota Review, and an assistant editor at Sundress Publications. Recent and forthcoming publications include poems in Mid-American ReviewSouthern Humanities Review, and Room Magazine, fiction in Gingerbread House Literary Magazine, and non-fiction in The Manifest Station.

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