On Mother’s Day, Ghost Walks the Road
to Courtavant, Closed by Flood, and Collects
a Simple Bouquet
Of buttercups, the color she loved.
Select each stem before you tear it loose,
Ghost, a blend of flower and bud,
present and future—nothing bloomed out.
A scraggly bunch, but typical enough
of a child’s thank you for his life.
By the barbwire post, a fan of widow’s
lace, then another, and a third,
for texture and for heft. Distantly,
a small red deer splashes in arcs
across the field. By the road, the shell
of one large egg, duck or swan,
brown-specked, cracked, abandoned.
A sunny Sunday afternoon in the country,
an appearance that all is well. Speak
it simply: To talk with her would bless,
the woman who carried Ghost
some fifty years ago. To hear her easy
laugh, to stroll unhurried, tallying
together the fair wonders of the world.
To hold her once, before letting go
again forever, just as you unclose your fist
and commend this bouquet sauvage
to the river’s roughly rising current.
But even if you could, you wouldn’t—
not let her see her baby in this condition.
Then again, you don’t blame her, either.
Playing Fetch with a Local Dog,
Ghost Recalls a Photograph
But Dalmatian, cartoon animal, and Ghost
never a short-haired-dog kind of ghost.
Always, though, a tramp for dog-enthusiasm,
being dead hasn’t altered that, for love
exchanged for a good scrap of fat and gristle.
Ghost stumbles forward growling, arms out,
cartoon of ghostliness, parody of the fearsome.
The stick a chewed mess of strings and slobber.
You feint, lunge, assault a ratty tennis ball
with stiff kick, and all parties in renewed
pursuit. When game’s over—score zero-zero,
nothing-to-infinite—you massage ghostly
knuckle behind a flopped ear, whisper
a few good boys of support. Trace open hands
along the spotted portal of the chest,
hold briefly over perfect musculature
of taut hips. Or: Briefly in open hands
hold a photo of a beautiful woman crouched
beside long-haired beast of comparable beauty,
leash slack between them. In the photo,
perhaps gravel drive is obscured already
by the first felled leaves, yet the canopy
above the pair is green, too green to believe.
From the creases and smudges of peeling photo,
they smile, beautiful woman and beautiful
beast, smile at Ghost assessing behind lens.
In the photo’s distance, perhaps, insinuation
of a house, glowing fragments of porch and gable
and grins aimed solely at Ghost as if in shared
and private joke, this life together too much
to believe, the slope of house overexposed
and dissolving already into dream. The photo
dissolves in your hand, a dream dissolved
to memory dissolved to wishfulness dissolved
to nothing-to-infinite. They are joyous, Ghost,
solely for you. You are part of their joy,
your care and attention are parts—not “Ghost”
of course, but a living man unseen outside
the fragile frame that can’t begin to contain all
that is too much to believe. Cartoon dog chomps
rancid ball, spins, growls, challenges, waits.
Ghost stares off into great amassing clouds—
parody of the great clouds that amassed before.
Following Three Years of Wandering,
Ghost Breaks His Silence with the Virgin
Pay the church what the church requires,
bargain blessing for a coin echoed in silence.
Balance your purchase in open palms,
tapered, pale and—yes—ghostly. If you light
its frail rope from a last fluttering stub,
subsidize hoax of flame-to-flame, stab body
to an iron rack of nails designed for the purpose,
what might these acts portend? If unthinking
you touch fingers to the baptismal font
and raise them to your forehead, then damply
address the hem of a statue’s blue gown,
and further thoughtless get stiffly to your knees
for a quiet moment, what explanation there,
or for a sudden swell of undeniable song?
The meanings, Ghost, if you’ll please indulge:
One infirm light, brief and burning, to mock
the darkness that owns it. A drop of water to relieve
the traveler’s fevered brow, an edge of cool stone
to dry the hands. The chorus of a whirring blade
in the street, orchestrated on the wind through seams
of colored glass. And to the oddity of Ghost bowed,
unbelieving, and painfully rising? Except the lion,
humility suits any creature—the profitable
and pious, weary and profane. I don’t buy one word
of your myth, Maria, avow one tear of your price.
Yet here we are again. Candlelight and vows.