Daily Archives: October 16, 2018

Ghost

Originally written circa 2005.

Ghost, you call me. Not a ghost, not the ghost, but
Ghost, making that my proper name, not (of course)
my Christian name, but the older kind:
the one that means something 
and tells something about you
that remains true. There’s nothing new

about me being Ghost, only that I’m called
by that name now, and I’m finally
comfortable with it. Back when I was just a guy,
long before I leaped off that bridge to get here, 
I used to daydream about flying
and walking through walls. I used to wish for the power

to blow through a window so everyone knows you’re there
and you don’t even have to show up.
I never had impact, and didn’t want risk,
so my fantasy became impact without risk: 
that would be the life, I thought. A good joke:
I’ve got the life I wanted, now that I don’t have a life.

I used to cringe when they told scary stories at camp.
I remember that later
I laughed at horror films, pretending bravery.
But once you’re here, you find
it’s nothing like those. It’s all so – routine.
You show up at regular times, whistle a little in a dark hallway,

provide a moment of clarity
to someone who’s used to being safe and warm.
You become a lesson no one believes in until it’s learned.
It’s not all bad. It’s a beautiful world 
when you can’t really feel it.
It takes your breath away sometimes to see the way it moves.

I spend years just standing
in front of odd, mundane things:
not sunsets, not rainbows,
but garbage trucks and fires and drive-by victims.
It’s all so beautiful, the way
disposal has become an art form. (It was my art, after all.)

Ghost is what you call me now, 
and I’ll take it the way
I have always taken it: with a bowed head.
Before, I would always
come when called because I had no place to be
other than the place I was called to.

Nothing’s really changed:
I blow through, bother you, maybe I’ll be remembered
in your children’s 
stories. Maybe we’ll see each other
one night on the landing, where
you might call me Ghost, or you might
call me imaginary. 
No matter.

I’ve always answered to either one.


Strange Claims

I wash myself
in an infusion of lavender and rosemary.
I’ve read strange claims made for that.
I am a fool for strange claims.

I bite my tongue then spit the blood
into my palm and wipe it on the bark
of an oak tree while asking it to guide
my spirit to strength. I am a fool,

they tell me, to do such things,
for expecting magic to offer anything.
I am a fool, they sneer. There are times
when I think they are right, but there are times

when I rise after suffering in darkness
full of whispers whose source I cannot name,
and at once hold a knife in a candle flame
then step outside and plunge the blade

into the earth and bring it up free of soot,
and all my fears wiped clean as well.
Then I come inside and say, it’s going to be
a good day. I’ll deal with the dark

when it returns, but now I will bathe
in rosemary and lavender
and if later on today I bleed
I will offer blood to the oak in tribute.

I am a fool for strange claims.
I am a fool for thinking more of magic
than of psychology or philosophy,
yet no one can tell me

that this old coin my mother gave me
when first I left home did not keep me safe
as she promised it would, that I am not 
here because of this token, this talisman

I have carried to wars foreign
and domestic and come out better
than when I left  — yet I am a fool,
they sneer, a fool for believing

strange claims. No matter.
It’s a terrible world and to get through
I do as I do, have done, and will do. 
One day,
I know I will fall in the dark

and there I will stay, rolling the coin
in my fingers, saying just this: 
I kept the faith,
Mama. I never let go
till I had nothing left.
It was not the magic that failed.