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Ghost Stories

ISSUE:  Autumn 1990


Out of a patch of fog, or the branches
of a broken tree, or as a light
suddenly aglow on the ceiling—
they assemble themselves, and briefly appear.

This time it was a beautiful woman
gliding into his room,
her head bent, hands clasped.

She said nothing, but I was sure she was weeping.
She did not look at me; it was not for me
she had come. And then she was gone,
as if back into that light
which was all that she was,
passing like the headlights of a car
across the ceiling, which is what I told myself
it was, or a dream, or half a dream

What stayed with him was her sadness
and his desire, later, to have spoken,
comforted her, as a father with a child,
since the dead, he thought, are like lost children,

or as a lover, saying the same few words
—”What’s wrong? Tell me. What can I say?”—
and meaning them, yet also seeing
her now as someone he would never know.
So it becomes a story of ordinary unhappiness.

She is crying, she does not want him
to say anything, or to touch her,
just as she will not permit him to leave,
since he must remain a witness, turning

only briefly to the window
where moonlight edges the black branches,
and the wind that is rising
cannot be mistaken for a sign
from any world but this world.


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