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Illustrating how to catch and manufacture ghosts

ISSUE:  Spring 2006

—after Alice Aycock

Tonight there is no wind, even the heat

    is on its knees, and the moths laying eggs

on the side door are not being honest
        with themselves. Though their enterprise

is beauty, the eggs will not last through

    the rains, and so it goes.

A slug, fresh as cinnamon, steps through
        the snuffed coals of my stove.

Such an obedient servant,

    humble licorice, never making a sound,

not like the moths who rattle the porch,
        sleeping ears waking at a candle’s touch.

Whose life is this anyway?

    There’s no trace of our coming.

We’re all in the same province,
        same slug-under-foot, same marsh-in-clouds.

The answer has the wrong sow by the lug,
    as far as I can tell. I’m writing a letter

and it begins I doubt not but you have heard
        of my late worthy master’s death

but how do I finish a page from a life

    that could not have been mine?

I never did get it right.
        I can feel the absence most evenings,

around now, slim moon behind the rain,

    the black bear handsome across the creek.

I had a lamb, once. Earlier, before history.
        It did not become a sheep.

It had only one ear and was taken from me,

    as all fathers took then. In that taking I saw

that the creature of another’s soul
        was not mine to know.

A dead face appeared at my window

    each night. A face that could fit

between a handful of leaves. I concentrated
        on its mouth, the living mouth filled

with grass and moths and small breath and light.


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