working in the halfway house

I pick up bad habits like smoking
on the back porch after lights out
and a tendency to see dead people
passing across the sky as stars
say, Freddie Baxter, who jumped
from the Takaka bridge his pockets
weighted with stones
(he’s there next to the South
Celestial pole)
yours was a slow reckoning 
not until spring did your bones
turn to chalk. there’s nothing
to dying you said and a small
pride lit your eyes as if you’d
mastered the trick; a clever horse
tapping its name out in letters
would you laugh to know
I still wait for your crossing 
matches in hand    to frighten the dark 


Frankie McMillan lives in Christchurch. Her short story collection, The Bag Lady’s Picnic was published in 2001 by Shoal Bay Press. Her poems have been widely published in periodicals and books.