The House of Ghosts was bright within,
Aglow and warm and gay,
A place my own once loved me in,
That is not there by day:
My hound lay drowsing on the floor:
From sunken graves returned
My folk that I was lonely for
Sat where the hearth-fire burned.
There was no lightest echo lost
When I undid the door,
There was no shadow where I crossed
The well-remembered floor.
I bent to whisper to my hound
(So long he had been dead!)
He slept no lighter nor more sound,
He did not lift his head.
I brushed my father as I came;
He did not move or see—
I cried upon my mother’s name;
She did not look at me.
Their faces in the firelight bent,
They smiled in speaking slow
Of some old gracious merriment
Forgotten years ago.
I was so changed since they had died!
How could they know or guess
A voice that plead for love, and cried
Of grief and loneliness?
Out from the House of Ghosts I fled
Lest I should turn and see
The child I had been lift her head
And stare aghast at me!
This poem is in the public domain.
Vacant and ghostly and content with death,
Once a man’s hearthtree; now the haunt of bats;
Once a cradle creaked upstairs and someone sang
The terribly beautiful songs young mothers know.
It is hard, even though you hold your breath,
To step without disturbing the loosened slats
And livid plaster…. Go! for a whisper rang
Through the bleak rafters: Take up your things and go!
This poem is in the public domain.
When strange light stirs the mirror, forces swirl the shadows by the bathtub and I glimpse a figure standing glowing. As I rinse the toothpaste down the drain, his blind eye whirls numinous white, his hair is moonlight streaming. I know neurologists have shown the course of dreaming as synaptic lines of force, and even in this dream I know I'm dreaming, yet when the light refracts at such an angle it shows his broken face, frost in his beard, his black lips mouthing words I only hear as moaning of an operatic angel. His ice hand reaches out. I flinch in fear. The mirror breaks. I gasp awake. He's here.
Copyright © 2012 by Tony Barnstone. Used with permission of the author.
For Russell Edson
If not for flesh's pretty paint, we're just a bunch of skeletons, working hard to deny the fact of bones. Teeth remind me that we die. That's why I never smile, except when looking at a picture of a ghost, captured by a camera lens, in a book about the paranormal. When someone takes a picture of a spirit, it gives me hope. I admire the ones who refuse to go away. Lovers scorned and criminals burned. I love the dead little girl who plays in her yard, a spectral game of hide and seek. It's the fact they don't know they're dead that appeals to me most. Like a man once said to me, Do you ever feel like you're a ghost? Sure, I answered, every day. He laughed at that and disappeared. All I could think was he beat me to it.
Copyright © 2011 by Christopher Kennedy. Reprinted from Ennui Prophet with the permission of BOA Editions.
The wasp's paper nest hung all winter. Sun, angled in low and oblique, Backlit—with cold fever—the dull lantern. Emptied, the dangled nest drew him: Gray. Translucent. At times an heirloom Of glare, paper white as burning ash. Neither destination nor charm, the nest Possessed a gravity, lured him, nonetheless, And he returned to behold the useless globe Eclipse, wane and wax. He returned, A restless ghost in a house the wind owns, And the wind went right through him.
From The Pear as One Example by Eric Pankey. Copyright © 2008 by Eric Pankey. Published by Ausable Press. Used by permission of the publisher. All rights reserved.
I'm crossing the river where it narrows, carefully, it being Sunday and I'm past the root end of the log when I look up, and there's a haunt sitting on the blossom end. I can see trumpet vine and blackberries through her white dress. Gnats hang in the air. The river runs, red-brown and deep. The haunt sings and it's my music, the blood song of my heart and bones and my skull dancing in the road. And Chloe, she knows my name. She says Oh Patsy, take care, or you will surely fall and the thick river will pull you too to shroudy weeds and you'll be gone, gone as the moment you looked up and saw the trumpet vine and berrries, hot and ready through my white dress, gone as all the years since I died, and waited here for you.
From Desire Lines: New and Selected Poems by Lola Haskins. Copyright © 2004 by BOA Editions, Ltd. Reprinted by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd. All rights reserved.
Two things I did on Hallows Night:— Made my house April-clear; Left open wide my door To the ghosts of the year. Then one came in. Across the room It stood up long and fair— The ghost that was myself— And gave me stare for stare.
A ghost, though invisible, still is like a place
your sight can knock on, echoing; but here
within this thick black pelt, your strongest gaze
will be absorbed and utterly disappear:
just as a raving madman, when nothing else
can ease him, charges into his dark night
howling, pounds on the padded wall, and feels
the rage being taken in and pacified.
She seems to hide all looks that have ever fallen
into her, so that, like an audience,
she can look them over, menacing and sullen,
and curl to sleep with them. But all at once
as if awakened, she turns her face to yours;
and with a shock, you see yourself, tiny,
inside the golden amber of her eyeballs
suspended, like a prehistoric fly.
Translated by Stephen Mitchell.