Ghosts are everywhere but that's to be expected. I've read you two poems, if it helps. They're so good.
No other way around it so I’ll just say what’s true:
I have always believed in ghosts.
Or as long as I can remember anyway. I’m not sure what I believed in before then, or what good a belief is if you cannot recall it. I believe what I do because of what I remember.
I remember the first time I felt haunted.
I was three years old. Head like a lollipop and always moving. The day was good with breeze and I was running through sheets as they rippled from clotheslines in the very small yard of a very small house two miles from the ocean.
We were a family of five and sometimes six sharing one thousand square feet and a single bathroom. I was often outside. Making up stories to make myself laugh and looking for anything at all. Everything was perfectly usual the day I found out about ghosts.
I was wearing my favorite outfit—fringed white boots and an oversize shirt featuring a Picasso-flavored abstract face-type graphic in pink and teal and purple, running around the so-small yard of a too-small house that was the size of my whole world then, trying to evade the billowing linens, laughing my lollipop head off. I have always loved a simple game.
And then I remember stillness. The wind stood down, as did the sheets. I froze. In my small and growing bones, I sensed that I was being watched. I remember feeling closed in on. As if the air had come for my lungs.
I did what animals tend to do when the atmosphere turns sinister. I ran. Though unlike most animals, I used my three-year old logic to deduce it was my awesome shirt that gave me away. The shirt made the ghost notice me. It was an excellent shirt, most days my number one choice. I never wore it again.
It didn’t work. We’d found each other, my ghost and me. While my memory stalls out here, my parents swear they would catch me coloring and in spirited conversation with no one in particular. They asked once who I was talking to, I gave them a name: Mrs. Volks. Who just so happened to be our small home’s previous owner. A painter. Who died there alone before we moved in.
We moved out later that year. Not because of ghosts, because of bathrooms probably. My parents know, as I have come to—everywhere is haunted.
The trouble with believing in ghosts, of course, is you’re more likely to be haunted. You’re susceptible to it. We tend to find what we’re looking for.
I have been haunted lately. Which isn’t to say traumatized by old damage, but rather called to witness. To notice loss—how the absence is a kind of presence and like every other spark of energy, has a consequence in space. To see not just the wound but how the living thing adapts around it. I don’t think what haunts us wants to scare us. It wants us to be curious. It wants to be remembered.
Which is why candles, and channeling. Sweetening the air and setting up altars. I think it helps the ghosts to know the love they had to leave behind found somewhere good to go. I think it helps to talk to your ghosts. I’m not a professional though. You have to make your own decisions about how to deal with your ghosts.
I made an ofrenda and told mine I love them. Told my old dead dogs I hope I did right by them, how loving they made me, how loved they still are. Told my grandfather it’s just as he said it would be. Told him I’m still learning who he was. Told Jerry how much his death cracked me open and made me need to live differently. Heard Perla calling my name the way she did, laughing. My tia. Perlita. Often laughing.
I am grateful for my ghosts, and what my memory allows me. All this love I haven’t lost.
Anyway here’s some poems.
Not the bell, I said—one of us did; Not the bell, but the smaller sounds, barely noticeable, trapped inside it. It seemed the kind of thing I might say to remind myself, when I’ve forgotten again, what I want to believe, even now, matters most—precision; though it’s hard, these days, to know for sure what’s true. Isn’t every season, no matter what we call it, shadow season? Didn’t timothy use to mean a meadow—a common name, back then at least, for the sweetest grass? I keep making the same avoidable few mistakes that I’ve always made, and then regretting them, and then regretting them less. Think of all the suffering happening everywhere, all the time, for nothing. What if memory’s just the dead, flourishing differently from how they flourished alive? Carl Phillips published in Poetry Magazine, November 2022
If you find yourself half naked
and barefoot in the frosty grass, hearing,
again, the earth's great, sonorous moan that says
you are the air of the now and gone, that says
all you love will turn to dust,
and will meet you there, do not
raise your fist. Do not raise
your small voice against it. And do not
take cover. Instead, curl your toes
into the grass, watch the cloud
ascending from your lips. Walk
through the garden's dormant splendor.
Say only, thank you.
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