My 100-Year-Old Ghost
sits up with me when the power cuts,
tells about the trout at Unkee’s Lake,
the wood house burned on the hill.
He says he was intimate with every
leaf of grass. Wore one hat
for Griswold, another for his own field,
the possibilities of the century laid out;
an endless string of fishing pools. But
they never got ahead of my ghost –
he took them like cows, one at a time,
never lusted for the color of trout
in a pool a mile away.
He knew from the smoke in the sky
Mrs. Johnson was starting supper, and, in March,
when the candles appeared,
he knew Bobby’s boy had died.
My ghost only ever had one bar
where the keeper didn’t water his drinks,
nor did he feel the need to hide his moth cap,
his potato clothes, or scrub himself birth pink.
My ghost tells me there was a time you’d look out
and not find a Dairy Queen. You could sit
on your porch a whole life and never think
about China. Sometimes I see my ghost
bringing cut sunflowers to his wife
and it seems so simple.
Then, sometimes, it is dark,
he’s just in from work and Griswold says
they ain’t going to raise his pay. And even back then
the power went out, long nights when they had no kerosene.
And my ghost tries to sell me on simpler times:
the grass soft, endless –
pools of crickets singing.
First published in V: An Anthology of International Writing From Edinburgh (2007), revised for Oxford Poets 2010: An Anthology (2010) and collected in Tomorrow, We Will Live Here, 2010.