Back at the college I tell them about the cemetery I found just over the hill & people who have taught there for years don’t believe me until I show them. I knew it was there, without seeing it, from the moment I arrived. I felt the pull of their orbit.
Writing by Featured Writer Shilo Niziolek
Art by Featured Artist Erica Peebus
Traversing the Spiritual Plane
In the dungeons of Salem Massachusetts, I almost vomit from the volatility of the air. It takes all my willpower to witness & not run up the stairs and back into the sun. In 6th grade we move into a haunted house. At night I keep the cats in my room & sometimes in the middle of the night they leap over my twin size bed, box spring on the floor. I wake to the soar of their tiny bodies. We know something is in the room with us. My mom and sister see the ghost, a young girl in a blue dress. I either can’t or don’t want to see her, so I don’t, but I do feel the ice chill in the corner of the living room. When I’m home alone, the door between the living space & the mudroom rattles on its hinges in the Wyoming wind. Sometimes it swings wide open to reveal an empty room & the front door remains closed. Whatever blew it open already inside the house. When a bat flies in the window midday, I don’t say it came for the ghost or because of the ghost, was sent by or is a part of the haunting. The bat flies’ circles around the kitchen and my cousin eases it back outside with a broom. One winter night, I hear something scraping outside my bedroom window. My mom, the ghost believer, assures me it was just a tree in the wind, but there are three scratches close together, same width apart, same length, fingernails across the glass pane.
When I’m an adult my parents move into a house that has a small back room, a window the size of a book. When I walk back into the room I feel the insipid shadow of something lingering & refuse to go in there. My mom sages it, but I don’t trust this cleansing. Years later, I still refuse to stay in it, banished or not, whatever darkness was in there lingers in me now. I’ve never seen a ghost, but I’ve looked in the mirror and isn’t that the same thing? In New Hampshire I find an old cemetery, enclosed by a wrought iron gate. The ice of January crunches under my feet. Back at the college I tell them about the cemetery I found just over the hill & people who have taught there for years don’t believe me until I show them. I knew it was there, without seeing it, from the moment I arrived. I felt the pull of their orbit. I walk through old cemeteries in every town I visit.
Shilo Niziolek’s (she/her) memoir, FEVER, is out from Querencia Press. Her chapbook, A Thousand Winters In Me, is out from Gasher Press. I Am Not An Erosion: Poems Against Decay, a micro chapbook of collage poetry was part of Ghost City Press’s online summer series 2022. Her work has appeared in Pork Belly Press, Buckman Journal, Juked, The Blood Pudding, Entropy, Oregon Humanities, HerStry, among others, and is forthcoming in West Trade Review, Phoebe Journal, Crab Creek Review, Wishbone Words, Sunday Mornings at the River and Pumpernickel House. Shilo holds an MFA from New England College and is Associate Faculty at Clackamas Community College. She is the co-founder and editor of Scavengers.
About the Artist
Erica Peebus (b.1982) recently moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana from Portland, Oregon where she received her BFA with an emphasis in painting in 2013 from the Pacific Northwest College of Art. Erica’s acrylic paintings can be described as both dark and whimsical. Employing a strong illustrative quality, she mixes realism with graphic details. Her works often represent plants, animals, bones, and the human figure exposing her fascination with life and death as well as her love for the natural and super natural world. Her work is heavily influenced by religious symbolism, renaissance paintings, mythology, folklore, and surrealism.