Haunt

They make you think you are dead. When you enter a room, nothing is happening, you speak and suddenly everyone lives in a world without sound. It’s almost corny like those movies in which ghosts don’t know they’re dead, daily life goes on, but people see right through you, you can holler or stamp your feet or try to flag somebody down, it doesn’t matter. Nothing can compensate for that, not even walking through walls, not such a neat trick when there’s nobody who will see you do it.

Other things seem smaller but take so much more doing—rattling things, opening cabinets, moving stuff around, all to no avail. Who’d have thought a tomb could be made from someone’s disregard. It somehow binds you to a spot—you’re not there, but you belong to the place, you don’t exist, but there you are, and there’s no place else for you.

You make a little chaos, but by now you’re frantic and pissed off—maybe you don’t, in fact, exist–and a little chaos isn’t as fulfilling as bringing the house down would be. You think. You will never be like the wind, known by its effects, though you could possibly be mistaken for the wind when you blow through a room. Someone can stand on top of you, but all you do is make them cold. Something you’d never expect in life, this shunning, this banishment, this invisibility.

On the other side of things, perhaps it’s hard to do, to pretend someone else doesn’t exist until you believe it or feel justified in believing it. But pretend absence inscribes a presence, the ghost you make goes with you wherever you go, even if you are always turning the petrified side of your heart toward it, it drains something of your life away. Thus this shunning becomes a kind of deathly binding.

You seek places where you won’t have to feel invisible–what a relief finally to occupy places where no one lingers: under beds, in closets, cupboards, attics. Living this underside kind of life does have its peaceful appeal. Still, it’s probably not as tricky as that implacable hostility that can deny what it is simply by making you disappear. All that spectral tapping while you are screaming I am here I’m alive I’m alive.

 

Future Past

There’s always something from the past–
perhaps unnoticed then, perhaps not even
from a past in which you were alive–
there it is: lurking in a nearby future,
waiting with its duct tape and its cable ties,
its boat idling in an unmapped cove,
a lashed-palm lean-to on the deck where
the weary torturer takes off his plastic shoes
to take his naps. If later comes, you will recall
you knew they had you when you knew
you’d seen it all before—the implements
and makeshift generators, the manager’s
motto taped on the wall to motivate
your captors, those who do and
those who merely watch: be the cross.

Escape

the disappearance explained mod 1

When death stopped by the room was ready–
the dark with its luminescent sonar,
the tedium of equipment, its scrawl and bell,
forced breathing like a turn signal still on
when you forgot to turn, sounding like tires
on patchy road, or like an ocean outside
a closed door, the sound of saying taken
from you, the sound you swam beneath already
far away from us, leaving, gone.
Just the week before you joked about more
elegant transmutations, that breathy
speech saying you wished to be encrypted
for retrieval at some better future date or
aged in a barrel and sipped neat cold nights or
milled to feed the trees that shade the porch.
We hope you’ve forgiven us for not acting
on such worthy desires—finding you now
each day in places you didn’t even know,
we’ve happily concluded that you
maneuvered past the end there on your own.

image: The Disappearance Explained: http://publicdomainreview.org/2013/04/17/illustrations-from-a-victorian-book-on-magic-1897/

Almost

A shovel and an axe
she says–one to kill and
one to bury. A flower,
a bow–one to shoot,
the other to remember
I forget, you protest:
a garden, a forest,
my heart, your dress?
Never mind all that
she says. We’ll wear
bearskins in summer
and go naked for all
dire occasions. Or we’ll
wear the latest shroud
you say. So there she says
take that, we’re dead and
laughing like always on
the wrong side of the joke.
You are thinking: now we
are sliding only half out
from under the stitching
over what tries to get out
to get in again until there’s
nothing to grab onto.
Metonymy you say. Hell
she says is all mirrors—
nothing is reflected
if everything is. It’s
the absence of things
we take as proof they
exist. Oh you say merely
call it a ghost and it
once lived almost still lives.
Yes like words she says like
love like illumination–
wherever it’s dark
it once was.

Inside

the burning cropped resized

The first torment is isolation–the blindfold
it takes to get you there so you don’t know
where you are, your mind hollering run
hide, but where can you run or hide? Thus
excised from the world you knew, you begin
to feel what’s done to you is some kind of
penance, you begin to think of your captor
as the agent of your deliverance. Something
in the intimacy of your suffering makes you
feel complicit, makes you hide yourself so
deep away that ever after you will feel like an
impostor—outcast, mis-cast– and the only
thing that feels like choice is renunciation of
what you no longer have. Still, even in this
dark captivity, there is the shining mind, the
scintillating vision of a heaven of light and sky,
and then all the ecstatic words you conjure up
to explain it. No one now can forbid you to
make a devotion of it, this expansive freeing
space you’ve found inside.

 

 

 

Ghost

noaa lightning bw scratchy mod 3 stretch resized

if and if not we between
ways that were not human ways
whispering next door that thundered
lightning that ran blue around the room

nobody would say monkey first
so we were always alone afraid
it lived there more than we did
chewed us up from inside out

how loud must alarm be
before we give it up
how much alarm
before belief

the road from there was so straight
and hot it burned up to your brain
we saw each other walking there
and pretended we did not

First, Then

first, then last, then in between
the cicada buzz of consciousness

just maddening, like intention, like
things postponed in some other life

tunneling futures you won’t have
dogging you in retrospect, it arrives

on thousands of small wooden feet, nothing
as riveting as war’s sloppy calculations

but like death in key respects, relentless
talk of things impossible to know

 

Breathless

6 Sep 2013 dwnld 2 010 mod scp bw

I cannot recall exactly when it was or where, whether in some public place or private, that I looked at you, perhaps across a table, perhaps across a room, perhaps up close, even in some intimate skin-to-skin moment that in retrospect would not really be intimate at all, or perhaps in one of those sightings I had of you in various places around town where I’d not expect you to be–I wasn’t noticing that anomalies reiterated cease to be anomalies–but wherever it was, I looked at your face and it was like looking at a face with a closed door behind it, and I knew you were already gone, gone not just into your thoughts and silences, or the silences I took for thought, but into some other place, knew that you were living your life elsewhere, knew, without exactly thinking of it this way, that you had constructed another life and moved into it, that there was no more being with you when I was with you, and when I thought of our life together, where I still was but you weren’t, I could almost hear the hammer and drill of demolition, and see the workmen smoking and joking around on their break. After that, there was always sawdust in your touch, and I was someone who was not me with someone who was not you, though I always thought of you as substantial somehow, while I was a ghost haunting the place that had once been my life.

I felt all the time as if the breath had been knocked out of me, and in that way in which the mind pulls up the only memories that somehow correspond with a present that makes no sense, in one of my desolate reveries, I suddenly remembered, as if waking up in it, a time when I was probably ten or eleven years old and Mother and I went to visit the preacher’s family, the daughter was about my age–Mother was probably hoping I’d find a friend, so little did she understand the real conditions of my life, the ones that had started, of course, with her–and she was inside having coffee and chatting or whatever it was that adults who didn’t know each other did, and I was outside with the girl and her brother, and out of nowhere, he knocked me down and began to jump on my chest—and he was a big chubby guy, there was no way I could get up, and there was no air in me, I think I may even have blacked out for a bit. I guess his sister got him to stop, or like all bullies he had an instinct for when he’d done enough damage and could put the innocent face back on, and it was one of those don’t tell or I’ll kill you kind of things.

But he didn’t even need to tell me not to tell—there on the ground with the wind knocked out of me, whatever I was pulled back into that little space inside where I had my life, like the closet one tries to hide in in dreams of being stalked or chased: I already knew that there was nothing that could be done to stop it, that nobody was going to help me. It was a moment of absolute clarity and absolute solitude, and although it was really only part of a history of encounters with malicious children that started when I was three or so and went to what was called kindergarten then—it was really a kind of corral in which children did as they pleased under vague supervision—it was one of the events that I had put furthest from my mind until the memory of it suddenly cropped up. When he knocked the breath from me and in a very determined way made it impossible for me to breathe, I was shocked—physically—and I was taken by surprise, but in the long view of things, I wasn’t surprised that someone was hurting me, that it felt like some kind of annihilation, that it made no sense. That was what being in my world was as a child, no one was looking out for me, so harm and helplessness was always a nearby possibility. I wasn’t a cringer or a hider, but I had a habit of kind of spacing out, which I now realize was a kind of defense that probably only made things worse by making it easier for mean kids to catch me off guard, to inflict a kind of chaos on me, and then move on to the next thing as if, for them, nothing had happened.

Of course, it wasn’t as if you were beating me or as if you had some kind of malicious plan, just that you had casually hurt me and now you were done with it, and done with me. Like all betrayers, you acted as if you really had nothing to do with what had happened, and like all betrayals, an essential element was that you made me party to my own undoing by letting me think things were what they weren’t, for quite a long time as it turned out, though I would never know precisely how long. All the years of my life that I had spent with you, over half of my life then, were suddenly obliterated—when I thought of the past, I knew it wasn’t what I thought it was at the time, it had just been emptied out, like my present had been emptied out when I wasn’t looking. It was just suddenly as if there was nothing left, nothing left of me, nothing left of you, not even in my dreams, which were now populated with people I did not know in places where I’d never been.

Alive

the laundry     suppressed     the corridor
the silence confiscated     all our words
the shipwreck     the rocks     the news
was good     the news was bad
we found the wreck     attractive
we were marine     we were phosphorescent
behind our backs     the middens beckoned
in our dreams     we were alive
  
  

Edge Up

Something was coming—you slipped out before it

knocked, burned beside a window full of glaring

sky, the bedside pantomime that words edge up

to, the mystery of this place you can’t quite

go into opens up its bargain, harrowed

from the empty ricochet of matter, the

junk heap the body is in every last word.

Slide

What slides
rules sideways,
it can’t run. When
sidewise dreams infiltrate
things we know, they
never are the things
we know again. If in
this makeshift paradise
time passing merely
imitates time past, the
dreamer never knows.
Something in us insists,
something else lets go.
Everything here that’s
flat invites a fold,
anything that can linger
is already gone.