It was an old cemetery; the original inhabitants who dwelt there having been long dead. Those who die today are laid to rest in a new plot of land close to the First Baptist Church, within sound of the pre-recorded bells that call the Dutch and Polish to prayer. The little church stands faithful guard over the older dead, though, those who were neither Polish, Dutch or Baptist; for there are stranger and darker faiths and they remember when the ghost of a dead nun, Sister Mary Janina, murdered up in the village of Isadore, began to haunt that forgotten corner of West Michigan. One night strange women’s footprints were found in a nearby swamp. Some were a few days old while others were fresh. Later in the day more women’s prints turned up along a road leading toward the church. Three days later a neighboring farmer reported hearing a woman singing from the swamp near his home; he said that he saw a flickering blue lantern-light through the trees. That had been in 1907. Since then Robber Barons had built empires only to watch them collapse when the Great Depression struck. Ships plied the channel that ran through the center of town; great iron hulks passing the rolling hills, farms and forests from which Manistee got its name, an Ojibwe word, meaning, “spirit in the woods.” Today a low fence, enclosing those age-old grounds, has been kept in good repair; there are no weeds, no toppled headstones as one might find in larger cities such as Grand Rapids or Muskegon. And yet, despite what the local nuns might claim, there remains a sinister feeling dwelling in the First Baptist Church’s cemetery. Even on sunny days it feels gray and desolate, for off in one corner are the graves of the angry bodiless dead, those of all the sailors and fishermen of Manistee who have ventured out upon the raging surface of the lake and never returned. There are some dead who will never be silent until their long lost bodies are finally laid to rest.
Crouching close together
in the cooling weather,
with clasping arms and cautioning lips,
with tingling cheeks and finger tips.
“lie close,” Laura said,
and for the first time in her life
began to listen and look
she clung about her sister,
kiss’d and kiss’d and kiss’d her
look at our apples
bob at our cherries,
bite at our peaches,
plums on their twigs;
pluck them and suck them,
then suck’d their fruit globes fair or red:
sweeter than honey from the rock,
stronger than man-rejoicing wine,
clearer than water flow’d that juice,
she never tasted such before
she suck’d and suck’d and suck’d the more
fruits which that unknown orchard bore,
she suck’d until her lips were sore,
brother with queer brother
hugg’d her and kiss’d her,
squeez’d and caress’d her
tore her gown and soil’d her stocking,
held her hands and squeez’d their fruits
against her mouth to make her eat.
Lizzie utter’d not a word;
would not open lip from lip
lest they should cram a mouthful in.
but laugh’d in heart to feel the drip
of juice that syrupp’d all her face,
and streak’d her neck
and lodg’d in dimples of her chin,
she cried, Laura,
did you miss me?
come and kiss me.
never mind my bruises,
hug me, kiss me, suck my juices
squeez’d from goblin fruits for you,
goblin pulp and goblin dew.
eat me, drink me, love me;
Laura, make much of me;
for your sake I have braved the glen
and had to do with goblin merchant men.
her lips began to scorch,
she kissed and kissed her
with a hungry mouth.
Jazz composition based on the poem “Goblin Market,” by Christina Rossetti; recorded at Boss Cupid Studios, Detroit, Michigan (October 5, 2013) All mixing by DJ Liliti.