Published on Academy of American Poets (

The Ghost

You must not think that what I have 
accomplished through you

could have been accomplished by any other means.

Each of us is to himself
indelible. I had to become that which could not

be, by time, from human memory, erased.

I had to burn my hungry, unappeasable
furious spirit

so inconsolably into you

you would without cease
write to bring me rest.

Bring us rest. Guilt is fecund. I knew

nothing I made
myself had enough steel in it to survive.

I tried: I made beautiful
paintings, beautiful poems. Fluff. Garbage.

The inextricability of love and hate?

If I had merely made you
love me you could not have saved me.


Copyright © 2018 by Frank Bidart. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on January 22, 2018, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

"This poem was written after I published a Collected Poems in 2017. As the book goes on, my mother (who died in 1974) becomes an increasingly central figure. Would she consider the poems about her in the book too angry, too candid, a betrayal? The speaker in 'The Ghost' is my mother’s ferocious side. She had very different sides. Behind the poem is Sextus Propertius’s poem spoken by an unappeased, unreconciled dead ex-lover, translated by Robert Lowell as 'The Ghost' in his book Lord Weary's Castle."
—Frank Bidart


Frank Bidart

Frank Bidart was born in Bakersfield, California, in 1939.

Date Published: 2018-01-22

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