The ghosts swarm.
They speak as one
person. Each
loves you. Each
has left something
undone.

          •

Did the palo verde
blush yellow
all at once?

Today's edges
are so sharp

they might cut
anything that moved.

          •

The way a lost
word

will come back
unbidden.

You're not interested
in it now,

only
in knowing
where it's been.

Rae Armantrout, "Unbidden" from Versed. Copyright © 2009 by Rae Armantrout. Used by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead 
         And that thou think’st thee free 
From all solicitation from me, 
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed, 
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see; 
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink, 
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before, 
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think 
         Thou call’st for more, 
And in false sleep will from thee shrink; 
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou 
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie 
         A verier ghost than I. 
What I will say, I will not tell thee now, 
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent, 
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent, 
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.

This poem is in the public domain.

In the days when a man
would hold a swarm of words
inside his belly, nestled
against his spleen, singing.

In the days of night riders
when life tongued a reed
till blues & sorrow song
called out of the deep night:
Another man done gone.
Another man done gone.

In the days when one could lose oneself
all up inside love that way,
& then moan on the bone
till the gods cried out in someone's sleep.

Today,
already I've seen three dark-skinned men
discussing the weather with demons
& angels, gazing up at the clouds
& squinting down into iron grates
along the fast streets of luminous encounters.

I double-check my reflection in plate glass
& wonder, Am I passing another
Lucky Thompson or Marion Brown
cornered by a blue dementia,
another dark-skinned man
who woke up dreaming one morning
& then walked out of himself
dreaming? Did this one dare
to step on a crack in the sidewalk,
to turn a midnight corner & never come back
whole, or did he try to stare down a look
that shoved a blade into his heart?
I mean, I also know something
about night riders & catgut. Yeah,
honey, I know something about talking with ghosts.

Copyright © 2011 by Yusef Komunyakaa. Reprinted from The Chameleon Couch with the permission of Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

(it’s scaffolding) (it’s supposed to be temporary) 
(the domino effect) (had been forgotten about)
(it was in storage) (nobody knew where)
(that’s a logging road) (you can see its gutters)
(they leave handprints) (they shudder with dolor)
(nobody could settle on any particular color)
(they meant different things to different people)
(for luck) (on the cheap) (stop now) (flesh for sale)
(fresh fruit) (insect free) (aquafarm) (moon control)

(it was label-resistant) (nobody knew how to embroider
it) (it felt like hailstones) (big as tombstones)
(it strained everyone’s intelligence) (we had tooth
problems) (we’d been flying too much) (our edges
were curling) (we were like silt over sand) (we felt
as if we were sugar dissolving in lime juice) (it
was heavy-handed) (we were covered with treadmarks)
(it was cosmetic) (like crystal handcuffs) (we were
fish then) (we wanted our ladders) (most of them were

rotten) (we can cut down some trees and build new
ones) (we can contrive it out of convection) 
(say you’re a weatherman) (seed them some clouds)
(remember how it felt to be scuds on a mountain)
(we had good motivations) (like treeroots buckling
up sidewalks) (we worked like treeroots) (we’d go
anywhere looking for water) (we were hydrologists
then) (we had stewpots) (we were fast-breaking)
(we were aerosol) (we had currency) (we were paper

airplanes) (our creases were in all the right places)
(we hadn’t been stratified so many times) (it was 
because they were eye-minded) (they couldn’t see us)
(we weren’t eyefuls) (we were just something to take
note of when they weren’t working) (we were like
scrimshaw) (you were one of the ones covered with flags
and lady liberty) (she was an eyeful) (we were hay
rolls) (then we were haywire) (we needed paperweights)
(we needed dollys) (it was money-laundering they did

as a sideline) (one little cooking fire stirred up
all of that cloudcover) (we were walking through a
ghosttown) (it was a terrestrial globe) (it wasn’t
any bigger than an eyeball) (it was at the bottom
of a fishbowl) (there weren’t any fish in it) (the
water was gone) (and it looked as if it had been con-
signed to oblivion) (do you still have it) (it’s
somewhere around) (we tried to put it in a safe place)
(in one of the treetrunks) (act like a lumberjack)

(show them your blue ox) (your animal companion)
(show them the marks left where you merged)
(they said they were covered with scruples)
(they needed some tearlifts) (you can seed them
with dryice) (that will use up all of the liquid
assets we have left) (then we can sell off some of
the dunking contraptions) (we don’t need them)
(we can act the way hummingbirds act) (we can fight
the way hummingbirds fight) (you can wear your red

vest) (you can wear your red cowboy hat) (it looks
awful) (as if it were made for television) (the
worst kind) (remember the scripts that were written
to teach us something) (past the stratosphere the
sky isn’t blue anymore) (we were unteachable)
(we were woodblocks) (we lived in a sawmill)
(when there was lightning) (it nearly burned down)
(we were unwashed) (we were scoured) (we felt untouch-
able) (and somewhat equivocal again in our science)

(you were always exact to me) (like a storm cellar)
(I liked it near your airstreams) (you never called
me a social parasite and I felt good about that)
(you never said things like the handwriting is on the
wall) (you never said we were biding our time) (you
weren’t a warden) (you weren’t a damper) (you didn’t
live in a chimney) (you didn’t work for management)
(we were still under construction) (there were
warning signs all over us) (in that shocking pink

orange) (like we’d been pickled) (as if we were beets
or some other kind of root vegetables) (you weren’t
a gladiator) (you weren’t resistant) (you weren’t 
a virus) (you didn’t know what a firewall was)
(sometimes you did do a little fire-breathing)
(not like a firebrand) (more like a fire that some-
one banked in the evening waiting around until
morning) (there were streets of clouds over the
plains) (we were ice crystals) (laboratory grade)

Copyright © 2005 by Dara Wier. From Reverse Rapture. Reprinted with permission of Verse Press.


Beyond the traceries of the auroras,
The fires of tattered sea foam,
The ghost-terrain of submerged icebergs;
Beyond a cinder dome's black sands, 
Beyond peninsula and archipelago,
Archipelago and far-flung islands,
You have made of exile a homeland,
Voyager, and of that chosen depth, a repose.

The eel shimmers and the dogfish darts,
A dance of crisscrosses and trespasses
Through distillate glints and nacreous silts,
And the sun, like fronds of royal palm
Wind-torn, tossed, lashes upon the wake,
But no lamplight mars or bleaches your realm,
A dark of sediment, spawn, slough, and lees,
Runoff, pitch-black, from the rivers of Psalms.

From Oracle Figures by Eric Pankey. First appeared in The Kenyon Review. Copyright © 2003 by Eric Pankey. Reprinted by permission of Ausable Press. All rights reserved.

After so much time you think 
you’d have it netted 
in the mesh of language. But again 
it reconfigures, slick as Proteus.

You’re in the kitchen talking 
with your ex-Navy brother, his two kids
snaking over his tattooed arms, as he goes on 
& on about being out of work again.

For an hour now you’ve listened, 
his face growing dimmer in the lamplight 
as you keep glancing at your watch 
until it’s there again: the ghost rising

as it did that first time when you, 
the oldest, left home to marry. 
You’re in the boat again, alone, and staring 
at the six of them, your sisters

& your brothers, their faces bobbing 
in the water, as their fingers grapple 
for the gunwales. The ship is going down, 
your mother with it. One oar’s locked

and feathered, and one oar’s lost, 
there’s a slop of gurry pooling 
in the bottom, and your tiny boat 
keeps drifting further from them.

Between each bitter wave you can count 
their upturned faces—white roses 
scattered on a mash of sea, eyes fixed 
to see what you will do. And you?

You their old protector, you their guardian 
and go-between? Each man for himself, 
you remember thinking, their faces 
growing dimmer with each oarstroke.

From The Great Wheel, published by W. W. Norton & Company, 1996. Copyright © 1996 by Paul Mariani. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

This morning in an alleyway I was startled by a face
I seemed to recognize, in a dormer above a garage
and so slunk up to him, who was ranting quietly,
mauling the mind of some imagined ear out the pane
as if maligned, or high, like one
moony and almost witless in a poppy ditch,
or one waking ill and supine
in a wet bed of opening mullein:
“I have no desire to theorize language—
I was raised modestly and have sinned unspeakably.
I would rather waylay and destroy
whose voice molests me.”
On his desk a thin book I knew, a tragedy
whose residue was a Sentry’s couplet I half-knew
and began to recite—startling him who turning was outwardly
unknown to me—, “‘Does it hurt in your ears—’” 
“Fuck Antigone—I detest language, I detest artifice,
I would rather waylay and molest
the beast that has imagined and pent me here.”

From The Little Door Slides Back by Jeff Clark, published by Farrar, Straus & Giroux, 2004. Copyright © 1997 by Jeff Clark. Originally published in 1997 by Sun & Moon Press, Los Angeles. Reprinted by Farrar, Straus, & Giroux. All rights reserved.

                               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.

for Danny Fletcher

          I.  Call and Response
		
                    1
			
Plumbline of disaster, shadow storage
    of the way thought travels, the opinion,
the sentiment, only assertion following silence,
    only a way of everlasting breathing,
a verb searching for grammar too devoted 
    to making sense so that the self interrupts 
with a final pitch. From stop to stop the mouth 
    makes music by holding sound in a razz
mixed with spit, air pushing through idea
    to a new phrase, followed by a chill, 
then riding on the other air. So the moment might live
    outside itself, lips vibrate against
the mouthpiece of the horn, the face blooms
    in concentration, the idea of interval.
	
                    2

Anoint the valves, they stick -- my
    it is bright when you bring out your trumpet 
William, standing there, tapping your right 
    foot, bent like a cricket at the knee, slouching.
Whoever hears your Ode to Joy  hears your knocking
    then setting down of carrying
case, cradling of brass. Dizzy said it took 
    his whole life to learn what not 
to play but in one month you deny nothing, 
    not even the feel of your embouchere, 
who'd been in school all day.  Lubricate the valves, 
    once neighbors lifted up their heads
like lilies in the field, and wind rolled over 
    the need to stay away. 

                    3

It's beauty people fear, bright
    rose riding on Aunt Billie's forehead,
the way light makes green everything
    after her pickled okra, stubble
in the hands of day labor, callouses
    of a parade of things and
touching them without seeing
    or hearing without knowledge,
dumbstruck by a brooding need to define 
    or look without a place 
to grieve, beauty and not faith 
    in truth in the light of justice -- 
just reach and nothing's there 
    but what's there already. 

                    4

William -- where -- is -- your -- horn,
    did you leave it in math class again
with Fibonacci's sequence, flaring
    bell, flex and curve in sunlight leaning 
at a forty-five degree angle, 
    your teacher Mr. Fletcher having cranked
open the classroom window with an allen wrench,
    merged with sunlight so a horsefly wheeled
blue-green in its own wingbeat
    by a rote it answered to in music,
lesser to the greater as the greater
    to the whole, tube twice bent
on itself, Sin curve on the line of displacement,
    sending sound backwards until it's now?
	
                    5

William, when thirty kids try out for basketball
    calculate the odds, the tendency of mind
to see itself in transition -- feminine green light 
    like call waiting -- you might be playing trumpet
into the speaker, your girlfriend Corrine might 
    be listening, exhausting her telephone allotment 
of fifteen minutes, holding her ear inches away, glint 
    of a clipboard watching you both. You might move out of
the paint. The yellow squeak of rubber on oak
    wakes rivers of grain -- what does it matter 
that this matter jumps back or breaks for open court --
    sometimes you only stand and scream,
wave both arms, put it on the floor and drive,
    lay it up, put it down, take it home.
	
                    6

Let me find the keys says Candace 
    let's go says William the water
nibbles at the bank sunlight shafts
    the fog      wait says Candace
clouds back off the water
    what else the boat suspended
glint gray along the gunnels
    here they are I've found them
the washing machine idles in its cycle
    sun shattered in water slaps
let's go says William      the legs follow
    the surface tension      the door closes
the car starts the green wave slides
    under the boat      a day begins.
	
                    7

Slow it down, bring it down, bring it
    on home, tympanum of the trumpet-
flower, raised hood, swollen yellow face,
    pathological woe standing
in rank grass against the Hurricane fence,
    half a brick bewildered, half
carried through slatted shadows, cracked
    bell shrouded by buildings, doorways
listening, patiently waiting for someone to open
    a paper bag and bring out the horn
and this one time it sounds exactly like
    laughter, wind blows in your face,
from a high window in metallic light
    long green trumpets beat back rain. 
	
                     8

When the instruments linger in the band room,
    snare leaning into itself,
tuba beached against green cinderblock,
    do they riff where a fault opens,
make a crazy line in space, does brass 
    lie in bronze alloy, does longing
breathe in acoustic energy? Notes hang 
    to the skirt of the bell 
like a city of light for a moment.
    A tire spooks the gravel, you hear talk
about the weather, the leaning toward
    and then away. Pierce the blind
to better hear the music, the fall 
    of each sound and pause between.
	
                    9

It damages people when they do not understand
    the healing power of friendship.
I am damaged. The left front light of my transport
    is out. A day doesn't pass. An hour
does not go by. There are minutes that glow
    in human flesh. A trumpet has a voice.
A place lives in music of people and time.
    These are not things I know.
Things of the air are also not thought of
    in time of need. That is why the passive
voice is so active in distortion, and well 
    to note that a slur is more expressive
than a sharp note timed to surface admiration,
    though the fool in me shines to perfection. 
	
                    10

Soft percussive no-look pass of summer,
    flexion of bell, white seed
of longing and forgetfulness -- I remember
    stopping on the way home from school
at a car showroom, perching on vinyl I could smell
    thinking I don't belong here
and the place about to close. I hold the page
    of music so you can see it, William,
your face reddens, your foot taps eight times 
    to push breath past unbelievable seconds,
a dandelion head floats out of sight
    senseless and alive, full of feather
and plume, empty to itself wherever
    it flies, drifting from its own heart. 
	
                    11

The dog growls, a low unearthed intent stands
    up on back of the neck -- I am here and
somewhere else -- back in time maybe, fingers
    tap the valves. Make two trumpets
of silver Yahweh said to Moses --
    and make them play flat and sharp notes
at the same time said Ornette Coleman,
    no loose lipping. Wake the memory.
Wake the present tense. The tongue wicks the mouthpiece.
    Horripilates the cause. Lights up the argument.
A column of air moving through an empty place,
    three stops, an opening outward
toward no purpose or proof beyond the time
    when people will not hear it. 
	
                    12

My father's there. Like fugitive dust
    seeping through cracks and keyholes in Oklahoma
in the early 30's. What happens when I try
    to hold him is my arms pass through air.
Goodbye   goodbye    to the river and to
    green metallic leaves.  I leave
the darkness which sat on my shoulders
    for love talk and grace of music.
Still, there are strains of darkness
    dear to light.  I found a photograph
under the couch.  My father barbecuing
    chicken with his shirt off, skin brown
as a berry.  Grinning from the other side.
    Into the lens.  Of light and song. 
	
	
          II. Shout Trumpet

                    1

When passing the Trumpet in Zion Church,
    red brick soaked with morning rain,
four cars parked on slickened blacktop,
    marked yellow lines, redbud clusters,
heart-shaped lavender pods, I keep hearing
    my own minor key. Even so,
a person puts a thumb out, an awning
    cantilevers, traffic comes
to a rolling stop. Through an open window
    high bright notes clarify the air
back to March wind, locked doors, to those who
    have lost their love, decided
to go and not come back: the high C
    of incalculable motion. 
	
                     2

At the Trumpet in Zion they do the laying
    on of hands -- your long hair
passes over me, the purpose of
    the body hidden in the word.
Thinking nothing.  Resembling an eighth note.
    If the rapture taketh then where 
does the body go when hands lie down on air?
    A flag dragged through the iris
upside down.  Desire runs through its stops --
    the dance rises to water level.
What happens inside music to make it run
    over arms and legs like a squirrel?
Toot toot go to the water to the river
    of folded wings,
	
                    3

where catalpa shade holds a body of gnats 
    just the shape of smoke and water 
saturates yellow air and a water moccasin
    displaces the imagination --
not away from but toward where the world 
    reaches and a song carries across water,
one they've been singing all along, 
    the same notes and fears,
the sound of pure tones. I wouldn't know it
    if I heard it. I might not
know if it were only mine.
    I would like to think I could clearly hear
the music as it calls across so 
    I could know what you know. 
	
                    4

Bats are back. Looping the Mulberry. Concentric 
    gravitational waves. I think I notice 
my own radar. I loll in a yellow chair 
    with two ear plugs connected to Art Porter.
Art Porter Junior in background on clarinet.
    Little Rock's own. Follow the ogive turns
past Maybelline to Telegraph Road, past
    Jimmy Doyle's and the white birches,
signs for Alltel and Jesus, SunCom,
    and Ruby Lube. Are you a holy roller
William asks his grandmother. No but I'm
    spirit-filled. Her sisters' faces 
ghost across her own face as it is -- Jean, 
    Billie in her garden, pious Lucille.
	
                    5

I ask myself riddles in sleep and part of me
    thinks it knows the answers. My
body leaks, my ignorance, my desire. I keep a
    gold tooth which is not the trumpet, 
wood landing over water knock, photon locked 
    in early light wrapped around 
a cove, people in a boat, not much talking 
    but it echoes, love is there, when
will I ever believe, fill the body up and sing.
    A wireless chip with beams of light carries 
itself in your eye. Who sleeps upside down
    on a ledge with toes turned in, dreams of making 
love mid-air, only you and me in water? Bats are back. 
    I feel a scarf of air rush past.
	
                    6 
 
Some mean ass little red bug just bit the shit out of me!
    So why does it grease the room with soulless
nasal noise, no antennae for opposites,
    alighting on the trumpet case?  Seven years
of mending, leaving and coming back through you,
    I think I can hear syncopation
in the last half of the beat, cancellation
    too, but I only want to touch the button
on your blouse.  The hi-hat clears the moment.
    Out of nowhere you came to me.
Where is memory with its leaning sideways solo
    under a stone weight?  Out of nowhere
you came back.  Today and today an old wind blows,
    music flares above the grasstips.
	
                     7

When the moon stares from its forehead 
    and sound waves and particles
knock on tiny hairs in the inner ear, 
    information travels -- how can one not know
the only pressure occurs at a molecular
    level?  A channel forms in the flow of ions.
When one whacks at a cloud of flies,
    one clarifies that insects don't know where
the hell they are -- they can't hear
    right so spend their remaining days
complaining that music by itself is trivial.
    Their bristles get bent, ions 
flow in to trumpet the brain, but still
    no hard high note, no upward rip.
	
                     8
					 
Plumbline of the asters, music caught inside
    the throat, the implacability, the fluted crescent
of the body, the temple, the infarcted heart,
    the age of reason, the tap tap tap of the baton:
one time one steps off the porch two stories high,
    next the song sings itself:
the air, the ambient glue, the tongue
    in mid-salute, the coup de langue,
the nation at war, the wormhole connecting nothing
    to nothing, the creak of heaven over
the creek, the flat speckled rock, the event
    horizon, the accretion disk, the no
which means no, the wide swing under stars,
    the water, the verb, the hidden grammar.
	
                    9

Not long ago a fly landed in the butter.
    The buzz stumbled, the the stared out
from the portable computer, the astral light
    combined with the high speed line
to toot back an unheard, unseen opinion
    so popular here in the South.
I reach for you and nothing, not anything
    from all the days of walking, breathing
in and out, waking to change and resemblance,
    quickened to the task of words,
time and timing unsung -- belly to belly,
    keyboard to hyperthought, one wing
gleaming on a salt sweet brick like a face
    in the screen, increased singularity.
	
                    10

I hear the neighbors talking over the fence --
    "He came driving up in that turd-colored
convertible and didn't even open the door
    when he saw his stuff all flayed out
in the bushes and grass, his shirt with the sleeve
    drooping over the hostas . . ."  The glass doors
screech, the monarch glisses over standing water,
    the ego in its drifting boat interminably waits.
We have no ideas but why should we say goodbye?
    The signature and sign don't mean
the end of it.  White azalea blossom stuck to mud.
    That is the end of winter, this
a preoccupation with weather which has nothing
    more than last night on its mind.
	
                    11

Thunder and rain all day like the drumming 
    of Zutty Singleton.  Ivy gropes
the fern, a sprig of oak pollen navigates 
    over two bar breaks.  One or two
octaves over, like a ghost flattened out, down
    the basement, up one flight
to the dirty silver door with Judas hole, to a few
    tables and wicker chairs, late afternoon -- that's
where to hear a phrase turn.  The upright
    shakes the floor, and when
however fast the falling torrent flows --
    stop that please thinks management if people 
stand too long and listen -- the whole world knows
    in wind when self assured, the roses blow.

                    12

You know that silo in Oklahoma, the one with
    chipped tooth on the way to Grandma's house
where apple blossoms lit the way to certain hell?
    Well, it's gone now.  The leaping light
and silence.  Through channels of urgent voluntary
    sing-song, passing tones in the hallway
mirror, tension through the saunter of water cooled
    air, all is gone.  You don't have to remember.
Only that violation in the upper registers which
    sounded and does sound in houses
just a few blocks over, and in fact, in this house
    which is hot at night and cunning,
waits for a future.   Slap-tongue's gone.  The mouth
    meets and notches the music.

Originally published in Brilliant Corners. From Ghost Notes (Oberlin College Press, 2001). © Copyright 2000 by Ralph Burns. Used with permission. All rights reserved.

Through shattered glass and sheeted furniture, chicken
wire and piled dishes, sheared-off doors stacked five to a
wall, you're walking like cripples. Toward a dirty window,
obstructed by stacks of chairs.

And once you move them, one by one, palm circles through
the grime and cup your hands round your faces, finally able
to see through—

Charged night. Sheet-flashes of green, threaded with sparks,
the pale orange pan of the moon—

Finally, what turns the wheel: the moon ghosting a hole
through a rainbow, the rainbow's rage to efface the moon,
which the moon sails through slow as a ship, in the shape of
cross-legged Buddha...

Lotus-folded, a figurine. The kind you once found in the
Chinatown markets, for a dollar and a dime—

Saying you're dying, you're dead. You can withdraw from this
orbit of mirrors.

Copyright © 2011 by Dana Levin. Reprinted from Sky Burial with the permission of Copper Canyon Press.

Marcellus to Horatio and Bernardo, after seeing the Ghost,


Some say that ever 'gainst that season comes
Wherein our Saviour's birth is celebrated,
This bird of dawning singeth all night long;
And then, they say, no spirit dare stir abroad,
The nights are wholesome, then no planets strike,
No fairy takes, nor witch hath power to charm,
So hallow'd and so gracious is the time.

This poem is in the public domain.

All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.

We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.

There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall.

The stranger at my fireside cannot see
The forms I see, nor hear the sounds I hear;
He but perceives what is; while unto me
All that has been is visible and clear.

We have no title-deeds to house or lands;
Owners and occupants of earlier dates
From graves forgotten stretch their dusty hands,
And hold in mortmain still their old estates.

The spirit-world around this world of sense
Floats like an atmosphere, and everywhere
Wafts through these earthly mists and vapours dense
A vital breath of more ethereal air.

Our little lives are kept in equipoise
By opposite attractions and desires;
The struggle of the instinct that enjoys,
And the more noble instinct that aspires.

These perturbations, this perpetual jar
Of earthly wants and aspirations high,
Come from the influence of an unseen star
An undiscovered planet in our sky.

And as the moon from some dark gate of cloud
Throws o’er the sea a floating bridge of light,
Across whose trembling planks our fancies crowd
Into the realm of mystery and night,—

So from the world of spirits there descends
A bridge of light, connecting it with this,
O'er whose unsteady floor, that sways and bends,
Wander our thoughts above the dark abyss.

This poem is in the public domain.

A gleaming glassy ocean
  Under a sky of grey;
A tide that dreams of motion,
  Or moves, as the dead may;
A bird that dips and wavers
  Over lone waters round,
Then with a cry that quavers
  Is gone—a spectral sound.

The brown sad sea-weed drifting
  Far from the land, and lost;
The faint warm fog unlifting,
  The derelict long tossed,
But now at rest—though haunted
  By the death-scenting shark,
Whose prey no more undaunted
  Slips from it, spent and stark.

This poem is in the public domain.

Winter was the ravaging in the scarified
Ghost garden, a freak of letters crossing down a rare

Path bleak with poplars. Only the yew were a crewel
Of kith at the fieldstone wall, annulled

As a dulcimer cinched in a green velvet sack.
To be damaged is to endanger—taut as the stark

Throats of castrati in their choir, lymphless & fawning
& pale. The miraculous conjoining

Where the beamless air harms our self & lung,
Our three-chambered heart & sternum,

Where two made a monstrous
Braid of other, ravishing.

To damage is an animal hunch
& urge, thou fallen—the marvelous much

Is the piece of Pleiades the underworld calls
The nightsky from their mud & rime. Perennials

Ghost the ground & underground the coffled
Veins, an aneurism of the ice & spectacle.

I would not speak again. How flinching
The world will seem—in the lynch

Of light as I sail home in a winter steeled
For the deaths of the few loved left living I will

Always love. I was a flint
To bliss & barbarous, a bristling

Of tracks like a starfish carved on his inner arm,
A tindering of tissue, a reliquary, twinned.

A singe of salt-hay shrouds the orchard-skin,
That I would be—lukewarm, mammalian, even then,

In winter when moss sheathes every thing alive
& everything not or once alive.

That I would be—dryadic, gothic, fanatic against
The vanishing; I will not speak to you again.

From The Master Letters by Lucie Brock-Broido, published by Alfred A. Knopf. Copyright © 1997 by Lucie Brock-Broido. Reprinted by permission of the the publisher and author. All rights reserved.

Ah broken is the golden bowl! the spirit flown forever!
Let the bell toll!--a saintly soul floats on the Stygian river;
And, Guy De Vere, hast thou no tear?--weep now or never more!
See! on yon drear and rigid bier low lies thy love, Lenore!
Come! let the burial rite be read--the funeral song be sung!--
An anthem for the queenliest dead that ever died so young--
A dirge for her the doubly dead in that she died so young.

"Wretches! ye loved her for her wealth and hated her for her pride,
"And when she fell in feeble health, ye blessed her--that she died!
"How shall the ritual, then, be read?--the requiem how be sung
"By you--by yours, the evil eye,--by yours, the slanderous tongue
"That did to death the innocent that died, and died so young?"

Peccavimus; but rave not thus! and let a Sabbath song
Go up to God so solemnly the dead may feel so wrong!
The sweet Lenore hath "gone before," with Hope, that flew beside
Leaving thee wild for the dear child that should have been thy bride--
For her, the fair and debonair, that now so lowly lies,
The life upon her yellow hair but not within her eyes--
The life still there, upon her hair--the death upon her eyes.

"Avaunt! to-night my heart is light. No dirge will I upraise,
"But waft the angel on her flight with a Pæan of old days!
"Let no bell toll!--lest her sweet soul, amid its hallowed mirth,
"Should catch the note, as it doth float up from the damnéd Earth.
"To friends above, from fiends below, the indignant ghost is riven--
"From Hell unto a high estate far up within the Heaven--
"From grief and groan, to a golden throne, beside the King of Heaven."

From The Works of the Late Edgar Allan Poe, vol. II, 1850. For other versions, please visit The Edgar Allan Poe Society of Baltimore site: http://www.eapoe.org/works/poems/index.htm#L.

Dear K., there’s a mosquito stain
between the pages of your book, a streak
of platelets beside my index finger.
The broken microscopic cells have escaped
the hurly-burly of the wide aorta, the stark
unholy flow through veins and tubules.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t mistake
anatomy for emotion. My heart is meat
and gristle, like Artaud’s: a simple
pump, it never falters. If I weep
it’s for the rocking chair, three knocks
embedded in the nursery wall.
On one window, I found instructions:
“Here, no cares invade, all sorrows
cease” in almost perfect iambs.
Forgive me. I tried to keep them
“far outside” but they marched right up
to my room. All month they’ve been waving
tenuous arms. Have you seen them?
What could I do but let them in
and let them rest in your favorite chair. Soon
they’ll disappear or I will. In the afternoons
(do you remember?) light falls
or spills, spills or falls through the amber
stained-glass windows. It lifts my spirits
but I’m still waiting for you to appear
at the edge of my bed with a message. Think
of the ruins I could have traveled to
by now, think of the days I’ve wasted
lying on the pink divan, a stand of hawthorns
blocking my view of the rose garden,
my American Beauty, already fully blown.

From Name Withheld Copyright © 2006 by Lisa Sewell. By permission of Four Way Books. All rights reserved.

The south-wind strengthens to a gale,
Across the moon the clouds fly fast,
The house is smitten as with a flail,
The chimney shudders to the blast.

On such a night, when Air has loosed
Its guardian grasp on blood and brain,
Old terrors then of god or ghost
Creep from their caves to life again;

And Reason kens he herits in
A haunted house. Tenants unknown
Assert their squalid lease of sin
With earlier title than his own.

Unbodied presences, the pack’d
Pollution and remorse of Time,
Slipp’d from oblivion reënact
The horrors of unhouseld crime.

Some men would quell the thing with prayer
Whose sightless footsteps pad the floor,
Whose fearful trespass mounts the stair
Or burts the lock’d forbidden door.

Some have seen corpses long interr’d
Escape from hallowing control,
Pale charnel forms—nay ev’n have heard
The shrilling of a troubled soul,

That wanders till the dawn hath cross’d
The dolorous dark, or Earth hath wound
Closer her storm-spredd cloke, and thrust
The baleful phantoms underground.

This poem is in the public domain.


My hero bares his nerves along my wrist
That rules from wrist to shoulder,
Unpacks the head that, like a sleepy ghost,
Leans on my mortal ruler,
The proud spine spurning turn and twist.

And these poor nerves so wired to the skull
Ache on the lovelorn paper
I hug to love with my unruly scrawl
That utters all love hunger
And tells the page the empty ill.

My hero bares my side and sees his heart
Tread, like a naked Venus,
The beach of flesh, and wind her bloodred plait;
Stripping my loin of promise,
He promises a secret heat.

He holds the wire from the box of nerves
Praising the mortal error
Of birth and death, the two sad knaves of thieves,
And the hunger's emperor;
He pulls the chain, the cistern moves.

From Selected Poems by Dylan Thomas. Copyright © 2003 by New Directions Publishing Corp. Reprinted by permission of New Directions. All rights reserved.

Papier-mache body; blue-and-black cotton jersey cover.
Metal stand. Instructions included.
   —Sears, Roebuck Catalogue
              O my coy darling, still
              You wear for me the scent
         Of those long afternoons we spent,
               The two of us together,
    Safe in the attic from the jealous eyes
                 Of household spies
    And the remote buffooneries of the weather;
                         So high,
    Our sole remaining neighbor was the sky,
              Which, often enough, at dusk,
    Leaning its cloudy shoulders on the sill,
Used to regard us with a bored and cynical eye.

              How like the terrified,
              Shy figure of a bride
         You stood there then, without your clothes,
                  Drawn up into
         So classic and so strict a pose
      Almost, it seemed, our little attic grew
Dark with the first charmed night of the honeymoon.
         Or was it only some obscure
      Shape of my mother’s youth I saw in you,
There where the rude shadows of the afternoon
         Crept up your ankles and you stood
         Hiding your sex as best you could?—
         Prim ghost the evening light shone through.

From A Donald Justice Reader: Selected Poetry and Prose, by Donald Justice, published by Middlebury/The University of New England Press. Copyright © 1991 by Donald Justice. All rights reserved. Used with permission.


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.

As the falling rain
trickles among the stones
memories come bubbling out.
It’s as if the rain
had pierced my temples.
Streaming
streaming chaotically
come memories:
the reedy voice
of the servant
telling me tales
of ghosts.
They sat beside me
the ghosts
and the bed creaked
that purple-dark afternoon
when I learned you were leaving forever,
a gleaming pebble
from constant rubbing
becomes a comet.
Rain is falling
falling
and memories keep flooding by
they show me a senseless
world
a voracious
world—abyss
ambush
whirlwind
spur
but I keep loving it
because I do
because of my five senses
because of my amazement
because every morning,
because forever, I have loved it
without knowing why.

From Casting Off by Claribel Alegría. Translated by Margaret Sayers Peden. Copyright © 2003 by Curbstone Press. Distributed by Consortium. Reprinted by permission of Curbstone Press. All rights reserved.

          At first she thought the lump in the road
          was clay thrown up by a trucker's wheel.
          Then Beatrice saw the mess of feathers.


Six or seven geese stood in the right-of-way, staring
at the blood, their black heads rigid above white throats.
Unmoved by passing wind or familiar violence, they fixed
their gaze on dead flesh and something more, a bird on the wing.

It whirled in a thicket of fog that grew up from fields plowed
and turned to winter. It joined other spirits exhaled before dawn,
creatures that once had crept or flapped or crawled over the land.


          Beatrice had heard her mother tell of men who passed
          as spirits. They hid in limestone caves by the river, hooded
          themselves inside the curved wall, the glistening rock.
          Then just at dark they appeared, as if they had the power
          to split     the earth open to release them. White-robed, faceless
          horned heads, they advanced with torches over the water,
          saying, We are the ghosts of Shiloh and Bull Run fight!


                    Neighbors who watched at the bridge knew each man by his voice
                    or limp or mended boots but said nothing, let the marchers
                    pass on. Then they ran their skinny hounds to hunt other
                    lives down ravines, to save their skins another night
                    from the carrion beetles, spotted with red darker than blood,
                    who wait by the grave for the body's return to the earth.

                    Some years the men killed scores, treed them in the sweetgums,
                    watched a beast face flicker in the starry green leaves.
                    Then they burned the tree.


                                                  Smoke from their fires
still lay over the land where Beatrice travelled.


Out of this cloud the dead of the field spoke to her,
voices from a place where women's voices never stop:


                    They took my boy down by Sucarnochee creek.
                    He said, "Gentlemen, what have I done?" 
                    They says, "Never mind what you have done. 
                    We just want your damned heart." After they
                    killed him, I built up a little fire and laid out
                    by him all night until the neighbors came
                    in the morning. I was standing there when
                    they killed him, down by Sucarnochee creek. 

                    I am a mighty brave woman, but I was getting
                    scared the way they were treating me, throwing rocks
                    on my house, coming in disguise. They come to my bed
                    where I was laying, and whipped me. They dragged me
                    out into the field so that the blood strung across
                    the house, and the fence, and the cotton patch,
                    in the road, and they ravished me. Then they went
                    back into my house and ate the food on the stove.
                    They have drove me from my home. It is over
                    by DeSotoville, on the other side in Choctaw.

              I had informed of persons whom I saw
              dressing in Ku-Klux disguise;
              had named the parties. At the time
              I was divorced from Dr. Randall
              and had a school near Fredonia. 
              About one month before the election
              some young men about the county
              came in the night-time; they said
              I was not a decent woman; also
              I was teaching radical politics.
              They whipped me with hickory withes.
              The gashes cut through my thin dress,
              through the abdominal wall.
              I was thrown into a ravine
              in a helpless condition. The school
              closed after my death.


From the fog above the bloody entrails of the bird, the dead flew
toward Beatrice like the night crow whose one wing rests on the evening
while the other dusts off the morning star. They gave her such a look:


              Child, what have you been up to while we
              were trying to keep body and soul together? 

              But never mind that now. Here's what you must do: 

              Tie a red flannel string around your waist. 
              Plant your roots when the moon is dark. Remember
              your past, and ours. Always remember who you are. 
              Don't let those men fool you about the ways of life
              even if blood must sign your name. 

From Walking Back Up Depot Street, copyright © 1999 by Minnie Bruce Pratt. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.

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.


Horses were turned loose in the child's sorrow. Black and roan, cantering through snow.
The way light fills the hand with light, November with graves, infancy with white.
White. Given lilacs, lilacs disappear. Then low voices rising in walls.
The way they withdrew from the child's body and spoke as if it were not there.

What ghost comes to the bedside whispering You?
-- With its no one without its I --
A dwarf ghost? A closet of empty clothes?
Ours was a ghost who stole household goods. Nothing anyone would miss.
Supper plates. Apples. Barbed wire behind the house.

At the end of the hall, it sleepwalks into a mirror wearing mother's robe.
A bedsheet lifts from the bed and hovers. Face with no face. Come here.
The bookcase knows, and also the darkness of books. Long passages into,
Endless histories toward, sleeping pages about. Why else toss gloves into a grave?

A language that once sent ravens through firs. The open world from which it came.
Words holding the scent of an asylum fifty years. It is fifty years, then.
The child hears from within: Come here and know, below 
And unbeknownst to us, what these fields had been.

From The Blue Hour by Carolyn Forché. Copyright © 2003 by Carolyn Forché. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins. All rights reserved.

I am the ghost of Shadwell Stair.
       Along the wharves by the water-house,
       And through the cavernous slaughter-house,
I am the shadow that walks there.


Yet I have flesh both firm and cool,
       And eyes tumultuous as the gems
       Of moons and lamps in the full Thames
When dusk sails wavering down the pool.


Shuddering the purple street-arc burns
       Where I watch always; from the banks
       Dolorously the shipping clanks
And after me a strange tide turns.


I walk till the stars of London wane
       And dawn creeps up the Shadwell Stair.
       But when the crowing syrens blare
I with another ghost am lain.

This poem is in the public domain.

Evening, and all my ghosts come back to me
like red banty hens to catalpa limbs
and chicken-wired hutches, clucking, clucking,
and falling, at last, into their head-under-wing sleep.

I think about the field of grass I lay in once,
between Omaha and Lincoln. It was summer, I think.
The air smelled green, and wands of windy green, a-sway,
a-sway, swayed over me. I lay on green sod
like a prairie snake letting the sun warm me.

What does a girl think about alone
in a field of grass, beneath a sky as bright
as an Easter dress, beneath a green wind?

Maybe I have not shaken the grass.
All is vanity.

Maybe I never rose from that green field.
All is vanity.

Maybe I did no more than swallow deep, deep breaths
and spill them out into story: all is vanity.

Maybe I listened to the wind sighing and shivered,
spinning, awhirl amidst the bluestem
and green lashes: O my beloved! O my beloved!

I lay in a field of grass once, and then went on.
Even the hollow my body made is gone.

From Even the Hollow My Body Made Is Gone by Janice N Harrington. Copyright © 2007 by Janice N. Harrington. Used by permission of BOA Editions, Ltd.

No one knew the secret of my flutes,
and I laugh now
because some said
I was enlightened.
But the truth is 
I'm only a gardener
who before the War
was a dirt farmer and learned
how to grow the bamboo
in ditches next to the fields,
how to leave things alone
and let the silt build up
until it was deep enough to stink
bad as night soil, bad
as the long, witch-grey
hair of a ghost.

No secret in that.

My land was no good, rocky,
and so dry I had to sneak
water from the whites,
hacksaw the locks off the chutes at night,
and blame Mexicans, Filipinos,
or else some wicked spirit
of a migrant, murdered in his sleep
by sheriffs and wanting revenge.
Even though they never believed me,
it didn't matter--no witnesses,
and my land was never thick with rice,
only the bamboo
growing lush as old melodies
and whispering like brush strokes
against the fine scroll of wind.

I found some string in the shed
or else took a few stalks
and stripped off their skins,
wove the fibers, the floss,
into cords I could bind
around the feet, ankles, and throats
of only the best bamboos.
I used an ice pick for an awl,
a fish knife to carve finger holes,
and a scythe to shape the mouthpiece.

I had my flutes.
*
When the War came,
I told myself I lost nothing.

My land, which was barren,
was not actually mine but leased
(we could not own property)
and the shacks didn't matter.

What did were the power lines nearby
and that sabotage was suspected.

What mattered to me
were the flutes I burned
in a small fire
by the bath house.

All through Relocation,
in the desert where they put us,
at night when the stars talked
and the sky came down
and drummed against the mesas,
I could hear my flutes
wail like fists of wind
whistling through the barracks.
I came out of Camp,
a blanket slung over my shoulder,
found land next to this swamp,
planted strawberries and beanplants,
planted the dwarf pines and tended them,
got rich enough to quit
and leave things alone,
let the ditches clog with silt again
and the bamboo grow thick as history.
*
So, when it's bad now,
when I can't remember what's lost
and all I have for the world to take
means nothing,
I go out back of the greenhouse
at the far end of my land
where the grasses go wild
and the arroyos come up
with cat's-claw and giant dahlias,
where the children of my neighbors
consult with the wise heads
of sunflowers, huge against the sky,
where the rivers of weather
and the charred ghosts of old melodies
converge to flood my land
and sustain the one thicket
of memory that calls for me
to come and sit
among the tall canes
and shape full-throated songs
out of wind, out of bamboo,
out of a voice
that only whispers.

From Yellow Light by Garrett Hongo, published by Wesleyan University Press. Copyright © 1982 by Garrett Hongo. Reprinted by permission of Wesleyan University Press. All rights reserved.

The spirit world the negative of this one,
soft outlines of soft whites against soft darks,
someone crossing Broadway at Cathedral, walking
toward the god taking the picture, but now,
inside the camera, suddenly still. Or the spirit
world the detail through the window, manifest
if stared at long enough, the shapes of this
or that, the lights left on, the lights turned off,
the spirits under arcs of sycamores the gray-gold
mists of migratory birds and spotted leaves recognize.

Autumnal evening chill, knife-edges of the avenues,
wind kicking up newspaper off the street,
those ghost peripheral moments you catch yourself
beside yourself going down a stair or through
a door—the spirit world surprising: those birds,
for instance, bursting from the trees and turning
into shadow, then nothing, like spirit birds
called back to life from memory or a book,
those shadows in my hands I held, surprised.
I found them interspersed among the posthumous pages

of a friend, some hundreds of saved poems: dun
sparrows and a few lyrical wrens in photocopied
profile perched in air, focused on an abstract
abrupt edge. Blurred, their natural color bled,
they'd passed from one world to another: the poems,
too, sung in the twilit middle of the night, loved,
half-typed, half-written-over, flawed, images 
of images. He'd kept them to forget them.
And every twenty pages, in xerox ash-and-frost,
Gray Eastern, Gold Western, ranging across borders.

From Old Heart by Stanley Plumly. Copyright © 2008 by Stanley Plumly. Reprinted by permission of W.W. Norton. All rights reserved.

A quiet akin to ruins—
another contracted hillside, another split-level
fretting the gloaming with its naked beams.

The workmen have all gone home.
The blueprints are curled in their tubes.
The tape measure coils in its shell.

And out he comes, like a storybook constable
making the rounds. There, where the staircase
stops short like a halting phrase,

there, where a swallow circles and dips
through the future picture window, he inspects
the premises, he invites himself in.

There he is now: the calculating smacks
of a palm on the joints and rails,
the faint clouds of whispered advice.

For an hour he will own the place.
His glasses will silver over as he sizes up
the quadrant earmarked for the skylight.

Back then, the houses went up in waves.
He called on them all; he slipped through walls.
Sometimes his son had to wait in the car.

So I always know where I can place him
when I want him at one with himself, at ease:
there, in the mortgaged half-light;

there, where pinches of vagrant sawdust
can collect in his cuffs and every doorframe
welcomes his sidelong blue shadow;

anywhere his dimming form can drift at will
from room to room while dinner's going cold—
a perfect stranger, an auditioning ghost.

Copyright © 2006 by David Barber. Published 2006 by TriQuarterly Books/Northwestern University Press. All rights reserved.

Brother is we is each of us we ghosts

Brother of white folks we

don’t never known us brother we

Because we never doesn’t fits

Nowhere we brother

doesn’t fits in bodies



Our bodies we is always walking leaking

like a ghost can’t be a body in one place

But every eyes     / Catches and pulls at it

Like every eyes in any

white folks is another

Hole in our bodies



Brother     / Is we is never known them close

Up close     whose ghosts we brother leaking is

Whose story of us we is told is us     is water in a fist

Brother we not the fist

we not the water

we the thirst

Copyright © 2011 by Shane McCrae. Used with permission of the author.