Poem: What Ghosts Do


What Ghosts Do

“I am surrounded by ghosts.” the old man says.
“Friends and children of friends,
after a short stint in well-tended graves,
come back to visit. ”

“At my age,” he tells me,
“the room is crowded with them.
Lovers and betrayers.
Truth tellers and liars.
Musicians and the tone deaf.

Opaque spirits,
their faces and words almost remembered,
certain enough I cannot forget them,
vague enough I cannot trust their words.”

The old man sighs and waves his arms.
“They lie, you know. That’s what ghosts do.
You have to chase them away, and fill the room
with the living.  Otherwise,
they will eat you alive
and make you one of them.”

About this poem

I can remember my grandfather (for those of you who know me well, my father’s father, who I loved deeply.). He had been a funeral the week before and told me “I have gotten to the age where my friends are all dead, and now I am burying their children. It’s a lonely place.”

I was thinking of those words this morning, and thinking too of all the ghosts in our own lives. Not just the ghosts of the dead, but the ghosts of failures, or loves lost, of abuse and trauma, of dark words in tender times.

And from all that, this poem.



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