—The Elms Hotel, Excelsior Springs, Missouri
We no longer believe
in the healing power of the water.
But a girl was cured
of tuberculosis here. Opal.
Meaning, she reflected light.
Luminous and inviolable, Opal.
The water left rust on limestone,
liquid gold. Her lung-shadows
disappeared into the pools.
I once saw my own ghost. I tell you this
as the Elms’ underground pool
splashes in the hotel bowels
with no one in it. My therapist
drew two bubbles,
one swelling, flooding
the other, and said, these are your thoughts.
You must contain them.
What are the laws of my body?
I contain spirit which a spirit
can pass through. Short of breath,
I buzz. Or I am a bag
of water and something
The ghost I once saw in Dallas
was one of my unhealthy thoughts
because she was a part of me,
a future of me, the ghost of a child
I would not have. She looked
not through me but into me.
There is no one at the pool,
but you don’t have to prove
a ghost story, that’s the point.
The paranormal tour guide
says there is a child who lives in this water,
that her footprints never dry.
No one wants me, not really.
Out here, the woods are electrified
by lightning storms.
The chandeliers quake.
A woman can be heard
singing through the walls.
I am untouchable.
I wake to too much stillness.
No current, no charge, just swelling.
I shake you awake—the power’s out—
You turn on the light.
A girl floods the room.
The New Hospital
“Wrongness came like a lone finger
chopping through the room and he ducked. What was that? said one of the others
turning toward him centuries later.”
-Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red
My father walks
through the hall of blood.
Dreamed from inside
the earth. Body materials.
A wall formed. Detachment.
Wings full of holes.
I swear an uncontained object
opened out of the body.
Cardinals a red flash.
Ways to find blood:
Luminol. Holy wings. Someone
you once thought out of fire.
What are the most important questions:
The great mystery, the fact
of empathy, talking to her
like a child. What if I ended it.
until metal is softened.
After he is gone, something splits.
Myoglobin gene, secret language.
Wonder like a limb.
I start to see his lack
of remorse. Whole blood
the topographical brain.
Cost and potential
failure. I swear opened out of—
this makes me angry—out of shame.
Jenny Molberg reads “The Pool”
Jenny Molberg reads “The New Hospital”
Jenny Molberg is the author of Marvels of the Invisible (Tupelo Press, 2017) and Refusal (LSU Press, 2020). She has received support from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Sewanee Writers Conference, Vermont Studio Center, and the Longleaf Writers Conference. She teaches at the University of Central Missouri, where she directs Pleiades Press and co-edits Pleiades magazine.