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


“Strange Ducks”

Before Cousin Tim’s service,
my father scared away ducks.
In his funeral suit, he stood
on the deck yelling get out of here,
or leave if you know what’s good for you.
From beyond the window, it was as if
he danced, sang mutely at the lake.

At Tim’s house, stacked cut wood
ran the length of the porch.
At the funeral, I wanted fewer songs
about angel’s wings because I don’t
believe in angels. Least of all their wings.

The week before I’d wondered why
don’t I know more? The Romans
built aqueducts to carry water
from the source. Why can’t I
hang curtains that won’t fall down?

Tim was handy. He built his own roof.
His wife described him finishing in the dark.
How he waited for passing cars. How he
worked in their flashes of vanishing light.

At the church, above the priest,
Jesus’ arms display painted drips.
Every week, people look up
at this bleeding and isn’t that funny?
Not funny ha-ha. And is it not crazy
to fly in a plane, starting in Michigan
and ending in Iowa? I tell my friend: I feel
so strange.

I feel light, too, and when, my friend
retrieves me from the airport in Iowa
he says: Isn’t it weird
that we mention the dead?
Isn’t it odd how we call them
by name?

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.

Ben McClendon is a PhD student in creative writing at the University of Tennessee. He previously studied poetry at Northern Arizona University after teaching high school English for several years. His poems have appeared in Indiana Review, Yemassee, Ceasura, Chariton Review, Redivider, Rattle, and elsewhere. He is currently Assistant Poetry Editor for Grist: The Journal for Writers and a poetry editor for Four Ties Lit Review. Ben lives with his husband in Knoxville.


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

  1. somawrites says:

    wow! this is just awesome!

  2. Gorgeous – glad to have stumbled upon this!

  3. moriartti says:

    Today is the anniversary of my sister-in-law’s death. And we still call her Tanya, as if there is still a Tanya to call in her absence.

  4. Lift Up says:

    This is awesome!!

  5. chbrown6 says:

    Interesting piece.

  6. It’s a great poem about ducks

  7. I thought it would be a simple poem about ducks. This blew me away. Great Job.

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