The table where you sat waiting for me, Andrei,
was wet with rain, little blisters of sky.
You had tea ready for both of us.
A bee hovered around your ear
and you leaned away from it, as a child might
lean away from his mother’s kiss.

How did you find my house?
Surprised to see you, I wasn’t sure
of what to say, and stood on my porch steps.
Your dog wagged his tail beside my legs.

You look like your photographs, of course,
and I’m disappointed that you answer
my first question—
how does a man look in the afterlife?—
with the familiarity of your face.

But you aren’t incongruous here,
and that’s why I am so confused.
If my neighbor saw us,
he might think you were my father.
Is that how ghosts stay incognito?
To others they are just strangers—
only those they haunt know who they are.

Why of all ghosts have you come?
I wasn’t thinking of you when I woke.
There are many people I love
but haven’t seen in years.
I’ve sat here waiting for them—
but you have undone my locks,
boiled water as if you were at home,
set out plates and knives.

Toast with butter, a few plums,
their rose-tinged juice dripping
onto your napkin—
you eat your light breakfast.
Finally, I sit down.
Does the burden of explanation rest with me?
I will try: this is an accident.
On my way home from buying coffee
I turned down the wrong street.
We’re raised to think the otherworlds are invisible;
there’s a distinction
between inner and outer,
life and death—
but you can see Dante’s Heaven
if you wait for night,
and the doorway to the land of the dead,
according to poets, is a lake in Italy.
Are you here to forgive me?

You offer me a cup with a candle in it.
That little flame
reflected in the orange-brown tea
makes a small cross—
and this has been my problem all along:
how to quench my thirst
without burning my lips.