I sat with the ghost again
this morning, the one who inhabits
the body that was once my father.
Ghosts find it difficult to speak
from within living bodies, so mostly
it squeezed my hand and offered
an occasional weak smile or nod,
said I looked good, but ghosts do have
trouble seeing out of human eyes.
He slept quite a bit, curled up
the better to contain himself
against the lights and prodding,
for ghosts want only silence and peace.
It wasn’t so much that
it slipped away this morning,
I’ve come to expect that,
and I know there is absolutely
nothing I could do to stop it.
It wasn’t even that I
couldn’t recall what it was
precisely that was gone,
for that is the nature
of departure and longing.
It was more that I now
cannot determine what
it was the replaced it,
and my mind is supposed
to be engaged in a
net zero sum memory game,
for that is what
gives me hope for tomorrow.
I am a Yao gem
inferior to jade
but awaiting the sorceress.
Will she wear me
in her ear, or prefer
I am a branch
broken from the tree
to dry on the ground
my fruit shriveled
Carry me in your dance
inhale the fragrance
and raise me from the ashes
to come down
to the foothills
and dip my feet
in the slowly flowing waters.
You say you appreciate occasional
gifts of symbols of love.
You expect me to bring you a rose
it’s satin petals gently curling
back at the edges, always
threatening to suddenly unfold,
alluring, drawing in the eye
promising warmth and release.
I bring you an onion, wrapped tightly,
it’s papered skin, the luminescence
threatening to break out but always
just one more layer down.
I help you peel back a layer,
it comes off reluctantly, as if
letting go of this secret
could be painful or exposing.
We, both of us, shed tears
and I wipe yours with the edge
of my thumb, you watch mine
roll down my cheek and hang
perilously on the edge of my jaw.
I bring you an onion and peel it
slowly, I lift the bit to your lips.
It is sweeter than you anticipated
but still it has a fierceness
that borders on passion,
and it will cling to your lips
long after this moment
has faded into memory.
Outside, even the crows
are quiet this morning,
seeking a warmth
that eludes us all.
We all know winter
has finally arrived
as we shiver and try
so very hard to remember
the warmth of summer,
the bloom of the lilacs
and the magnolia petals
to mark our path.
He wasn’t sure he wanted it,
was fairly certain he did not,
and in that moment, was certain
he would get it, so he began
developing elaborate plans
on what to do with it when it arrived.
He laid them out in painful detail,
each step, each move
He waited patiently, each minute
washing into the next until
it was hours, then days, then months.
He reassessed his plans for it,
fine tuned them daily.
He grew older until one day
he could no longer remember
what it was, and moments
later it arrived, and there it sat
unseen and unrecognized.
She said, “As we get older
we start to come from the place
we only wished we were from,
and the place from which we came,
becomes the place from which
we are now glad we never visited.”
He said, “As I age, my youth changes,
and the things I say I did are increasingly,
the things I wish I had done,
and what I did and wish I hadn’t
are things that now never happened.”
She smiled, “it’s hard to believe
that now we never met in that one place
neither of us says we have been,
and yet here we are
in the midst of our created history.”