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Ghost Poems


As usual, the stars in the third quadrant
are leaking embalming fluid,
and there’s a smell of BBQ
and dirty mirrors permeating the air.
I can’t say much now
on account of this corroded connection,
but tonight I can tell you this:
Expect showers
or heavy thunderstorms in the area,
with temperatures steadily falling to 75 degrees.
Tonight, expect to find in the center
of one of your bedsprings
the cataractous eye of a clairvoyant snake.


After I died, I awoke
on a stretcher covered with razor blades,
and something like a fine, white ash
was raining down on my skin.
Up above, gigantic hands
were hastily scribbling with chalk
across the scarred, black slate of the sky.
They were writing out alphabets
in different languages;
all of them—I somehow knew—
were missing the letters of my name.


It was like trying to vomit one’s own shadow
or flay oneself with hands that felt like fins.
When I heard the mud was about to bubble,
I didn’t know whether to pray
to the angle of reflection or the angle of incidence.
The horizon undulated with indeterminacy
like an enormous vector threatening to switch
from swallowing to regurgitating its own tail.
It became clear that the difference
between cannibalism and copulation was negligible,
that heterotropia was the true currency of the realm.
O bloated carp head, I said to the appendage
dangling awkwardly between my shoulders,
go tell my mannequin I forgive him.


In Alejandro Amenábar’s film The Others,
the dead believe they are, in actuality, still living,
but only one from the living
could have concocted such a simple inversion.
From the point of the dead,
ghosts are always already trying to burst
from the bounds of their living bodies.
Take, for example, the forefinger
poking out of that man’s ear like an overgrown,
parasitic earplug: it’s a sure sign of a guilty conscience.
Or, on the soft surface of that baby’s belly,
another, duplicate face. Look at its little, spectral lips
trembling and contorting—it’s still so young—
it’s trying to learn how to say boo.


Including this sentence, only half of the following statements are true.

The sun is just a reflection of Lucifer’s nipple.

When flying, birds are easier to shoot from above.

The highest amount of bacteria found in a domestic household is under the pillow.

The most frightening ghosts are the ones of inanimate objects—like that of a toy lawn mower or an answering machine.

In the southern hemisphere, Alpha Centauri represents the heart of a constellation called man-eating piñata.

If a ghost is deaf, it means its life was a disappointment to its family.

If a ghost is mute, it means its body was buried at sea.

Cemeteries belong to the dead so, by definition, cannot be haunted.

Footsteps grow more muffled at nightfall.

Ghosts often break into their own coffins to trim their hair and fingernails—and later, to buff out the scratches on their skulls.

Beyond the grave, there are no prepositions.

Beyond the grave is another grave.†

A note on the text: These poems were commissioned by Justin Nobel in July 2012 for a reading in the supposedly haunted City View Hotel, which faces Calvary Cemetery, in the little known neighborhood of Blissville, Queens.
Posted 01/20/13
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