Revised, from 2005.
Ghost, you call me. Not the ghost, but
“Ghost”, making that my proper name, not (of course)
my Christian name, but the older kind: one
that tells something about you
that remains true. There’s nothing new
about me being a 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.
As a kid I cringed when they told
scary stories at summer camp.
I remember that later on I laughed
at horror films, pretending bravery.
Once you’re here, you find
it’s nothing like the movies. 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 needs until after it’s been learned.
But it’s not all bad.
This is 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 the strangest 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.
So, Ghost is what you call me, and I’ll take it now
the way I’ve 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.