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.

About Tony Brown

A poet with a history in slam, lots of publications; my personal poetry and a little bit of daily life and opinions. Read the page called "About..." for the details. View all posts by Tony Brown

4 responses to “Ghost

  • Eileen

    Self pity doesn’t become you. It sounds like pride. Ego defeats us all. Success is deadly. Let it go. A stone thrown in the ocean doesn’t get to see how far the ripples go. Idealists are always frustrated by the inch worm nature of our call and the fact that our life spans aren’t long enough to see satisfying outcomes.

    • Tony Brown

      It’s not about me.

      • Eileen

        boy, I really am projecting my own struggles…sorry

      • Tony Brown

        Just remember that a poet is a creative writer. Not every poem is naked autobiography. Not every poet is spilling their soul onto the page.

        In this case, I wanted to write a poem about the historical cliche of the “unhappy spirit wandering the earth after death.” What if you ran into a ghost who found the afterlife to be pretty much the same as, well, life — a ghost who’d felt fairly invisible in life finding that he might actually have a bit more impact on things after death? That’s all I was aiming for.

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