Footbridges are her chalkboard.
She erases the night
with her tongue. No spitting
allowed. If she could write
like you used to
speak, she’d drop
(reading, ‘riting, ‘rithmetic)
to make room for one long
queue that snakes
along those unmarred banks.
But she just can’t do it.
I borrowed a list of resentments
from a stranger
on a train. I’m not even pissed
at you for dying. Maybe later.
I was once—angry—when
you accused me
myself. But even that rocking
is an empty dinghy
beneath the old drawbridge—
no sail, no wind.
With that simple placement
of a single red
rose in your tended
I say good-bye. Still I see
your face, hear your voice
in strangers conversing
as they do their jobs
in your hometown. Whoever reads
the message I attached to the thorn
will know the code
to break your inappropriate hold
on my life. Some symbols
need to die.
Graffiti artists or civil
their mark on a sidewalk
outside an abandoned gas station. A half empty
bottle of Coors, one soaked pack
of Camels beside
your tombstone—vandals or care
takers. The golden
section, topology, a field
trip to the MIT Computation Center. Figures
may not lie, but street addresses can
disappear. What’s left is
open to interpretation.
If I study the word
“long” from every measured angle
I still won’t know what
you meant or felt by those right-slanting
letters. And with you
dead, those secrets will remain secure
inside a locker
I’m not meant to discover. If I do,
I‘ll pretend not to remember
the combination just so you can
teach me about numbers again—
however it is you ghosts
do that sort of thing.
No longer in the run around, she traipses
across an invisible line
and visitor, room
and mask, smile
and lie, tears
and truth, lover
and ghost. A new
preoccupation might not be so kind.
She doesn’t visit haunted houses.
But for you she might
walk the disappearing
floor boards just to spy the illusion
of you and those insinuations
your eyes and long fingers held
captive for so many years. Creaks
expose only laughter wrapped
around the mystery
of what might have been. If
only those planks had been
of sounder wood.
Will drink the new wine. The only conversation
I’ll have this weekend
is with you. If
erythrophobia was fatal, you would have been
a serial killer. Or was it just me?
Not yet vintage, I wanted to be
your only victim. A true enough
kiss to taste the tobacco
before it became my own. I long
to be the person again
who comes along
to stir yours. Though I can’t lick
your ghostly replies, the scent is rich
in pre-fall burning. Hold the leaves.
A wedge of lime and one of lemon
in her drink—is it allowed? Scorn
for the drunk who smashes
into her—is it allowed? Reading
poetry by candlelight in First
Avenue before the main act takes
the stage—is it allowed? A woman
crunches on something in a plastic bag—the sound
of almost breaking teeth, is it
allowed? She’s on edge—with or without
permission—even as the sun opens
wide a written-off day. Your ghost
keeps showing up uninvited.