Aubade on a Ghost Hunt
We prefer to do it with the lights on,
the Victrola scratching How long can it last?
against the tremble of curtains. Patient,
we learn the walls, their glossary of knocks,
translating harlequin and dust. What we
know lives here—lonely bone star blossom
of the spider plant, lost bee on the sill,
the recorder’s static alive and puckering.
I tell you our future is the guttering candle
in the basement birdcage. Prove it, you say,
and I set both its shadows swaying. Our history—
the attic window, how the unseen surprises
the photograph. You ask what is there
to be afraid of. I ask the past to make itself
known to me. We only have to make it through
the night, so we close the dolls’ eyes. Danger
midwifes the heart’s spring. We are cabbage roses
grooming the parlor air with unsexed pistils.
I have this kiss and its sleepless itinerary.
Your lip, pink logic and cushion. The door
tests its lock, and I let you ruin each light
orb and whisper with physics. If we’re sure
something is here, then we have to find out
what it wants. A voice on the recorder, sweet
as gravecake—don’t go. We can admit it wasn’t
proof we came for, it was the question.
Copyright © 2021 by Traci Brimhall. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on October 27, 2021, by the Academy of American Poets.
“I rented a haunted house in Atchison, Kansas, and as you might expect, I couldn’t sleep and stayed up writing. Somehow my hunger for a fluttering curtain or disembodied voice to kill my doubts about ghosts turned into a poem about the ways love also haunts. Both my desire to speak to the dead and to be loved by the living are born out of a hope with fear inside it. The poem circles back to its first question because there’s never enough evidence to prove ghosts (or love) are real, no matter how much we want something to last.”