Today, appropriately enough, I am thinking about ghosts. I went to a poetry reading at Beyond Baroque last night. Several poets read from a recently published anthology edited by Gloria Vando and Philip Miller called Chance of a Ghost and all of the pieces have to do with ghosts or hauntings. It was put out by Helicon Nine Editions and its proceeds go to The Writers Place, a non-profit literary community in Kansas City. This book has an incredible collection of writing and truly all of the readers last night did a great job.
The point though is that, of course, it did get me thinking about ghosts. Yesterday afternoon, I watched the movie Magnolia for the first time and so on my way to Venice, I was thinking about forgiveness. So now, the two subjects are linked in my mind. What is forgivable, have I completely forgiven myself for past transgressions and is there anyone out there from whom I should seek forgiveness? In the meantime, I think about actual ghosts who have haunted me in a home that saw the end of my first marriage.
I suppose the first ghost that comes to mind is the man in brown wing tip shoes who held me when I was sick with the flu shortly after my marriage ended. He wore wool pants and stayed with me for two weeks until one morning I woke up and felt, for the first time in several days, healthy. He left me that morning and I haven't seen him since. I wonder about him sometimes, wonder if he was always a caregiver or if, in tending to me, he was working off some karmic debt. In any event, I'm glad he was there and was not afraid of his presence.
The second ghost is, of course, Dean. A man I lived with in 2000 who died while he was here. I found him. He was too young to go and the interesting thing is that when someone dies of no "apparent" cause, the coroner takes over where the police left off in the interrogation process. Probably more information than should be shared here but I think I'm working toward something. He died of alcohol abuse. He was literally hours from his 32 birthday. Dean haunted me for five years and then I put together a chapbook of poetry, dedicated to his memory, and I haven't seen or heard from him since. Perhaps he knew in the culmination of that project that there was forgiveness and could move on. Perhaps he sensed that I had finally forgiven myself. There is a great line in one of the poems by Cathy Colman called Sex Ghost that was read, not by the poet because she was too ill to attend, but by her best friend, Elena Karina Byrne (a wonderful poet as well) that goes:
The questions://do I want time to move faster so that the pain might decrease?//Or more slowly, so that I will be closer to the instant you still took breath?
I asked those questions for a long time. Then I met Carl. All time began to move forward and it moved without pain. Now my only ghost is the muse I meet at 4 a.m. in moments of insomnia. Which brings me to Elena's poem called The Mask of Insomnia. It's about those wee hours and the spirit that takes over when we are alone in our thoughts. Brilliantly written, it begins with an epigraph that goes: There are two gates of Sleep...but deceptive are the visions the Underworld sends that way to the light. --Virgil 893. The last several stanzas are:
Look at you: you are inside--
out, all eyes, wide-awake
with the precise ticking heart
in your ankles, strung-out on words, brought in
on the one underwater wave of the refrigerator noise.
The windows look back lightless in disapproval.
You can't predict the clacking of the teacups
coming from all the clocks
or the church smell of your own skin. Prolonging
sleep, the clairvoyant stranger
you have invited to stay, cleans house.
The night is young. Yes, You can invent more
ways to be afraid than this.
And perhaps that is all these ghosts are, inventions of fear so that we can avoid thoughts of our own mortality and the tick, tick, tick of time passing and the Autumn days that now bring darkness with the dinner hour. Happy Halloween everyone and tomorrow All Soul's Day/The Day of the Dead brings a new Scorpio moon, sign of secrets and underworld marked by a new lunar cycle, a way to start fresh. Forgive yourself, forgive your ghosts and move forward in your reality, it will all be vapor soon enough.