ghost canto

for Bernadette Mayer

a list appears in parentheses
w every line crossed 
out:                 what goes into
the poem?                 my cousin’s ex
husband asks
what a poet is—he’s
read dead ones before but
never met a real live one 
didn’t realize
it was a living art at all
didn’t I read something 
in the Atlantic magazine?
          in hell: 
the death of poetry 
as narrated by 
my cousin’s brooks
bros ex
          in the morning
riv texts 
a video of zazi
riding his bimba
hot pink not quite trike  
singing “leaves & flowers
leaves & flowers” 
          i put down my phone
& look up to the poem
face it w curiosity patience &
          what do you mean by
care? the chair of the 
search committee asks,
when you say “care-
oriented pedagogy”
           as if to say: 
am I my brother’s
keeper? as if to say:       what is my 
responsibility?          what does 
          it matter in the end whether
we care or not or 
abt what?
it matters a whole fucking
lot—but you can’t say that
in the interview 
twist yr tongue into knots
as zuk’s coleridge’s shylock:
engprof, thou doth protest 
too much
          in the poem
          the gates open at the
same moment they close
a spell gets thru
not curse but 
apotropaic chant
warding off the evil eye
           when i heard  
bernadette had died
i texted my amish gazebos
abroad group chat: “thinking of how
lucky we are to be poets”
if poetry is finally
a means
& seam
at dbl eternity
in reverse faustian pact
“just freaks being freaks” 
          if there’s no original 
language & we are 
all mediums of
the dead 
          bernadette was alive
when i started
this poem, a poet among ghosts 
now ghost among poems
what bill berkson calls “duration”
the translations of her life she made 
remain our permission
in second body 
mind aggregation 
language in/formation 
culled by the dead
for the living—the dead
who live among us
& the dead we all become

Copyright © 2023 by Ariel Resnikoff. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on August 4, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.