How to Disappear
Marjorie Stelmach

How to Disappear

          . . . like a plain, simple thing.
                         Hans Christian Andersen
                         The Nightingale

          Keep still so long
time comes to rest
like dust
on your shoulders.
Then, thin yourself
till it lifts
from your skin
like a cloud of gnats
in a gold cast of sun.
Now, thin further.
if you’d rather,
stay for a while, clothed
in a world-colored substance
that can’t be told
from the whole.
Which of you, then—
figure or ground—
is ghost?
          It’s one of the long arts.
Give it time.
Let all the sweet grief
at your passing pass
de-moted from every eye
that filled, even once,
with your face—
you are free to be off
at light-speed:
exceed yourself.
          If you feel at first
the urge to return,
to assure yourself
of your absence,
that’s fine: re-cohere
from your memory of flesh
a provisional presence.
Perch on a limb
out of sight. Sing.
          Sing your diminishment.
Sing like an echo returned
from the shores
of an old fairy tale. Sing,
like a plain, simple thing.
          No love
need be revisited now;
no sin undone.
Release your name,
your past, your dust.
Only now it begins—
the after, the life.

Marjorie Stelmach

is the author of Walking the Mist (Ashland Poetry Press, 2021), as well as five other collections of poetry. Her work has appeared in Boulevard, Cincinnati Review, Gettysburg Review, Image, Iowa Review, New Letters, and other journals.