More Honored in the Breach: A Note to Ghost, Absent
Your kind of morning, Ghost:
the sun smothered by gray shroud
of sky, fields defeated, this entire
house moaning its existence,
a spitting rain that seemed, somehow,
cruelly arbitrary. The kind of morning
to lie on a hard bed, pull the gloom
to your neck, try like hell not to remember.
I wasn’t surprised you weren’t here
when I arrived, not in the stone alleys,
not in the shadows of the forest,
not trembling, arms spread, among
the ravens and terraced vines. Perhaps
you tired of waiting for me, as in
the living world they have tired of my leaving.
But I don’t believe so. Something happened
in the old church that night—its door
unlocked only once—when I stumbled,
spilling the wine, and the torch went out,
something I will never comprehend,
as only you could explain. I wouldn’t say
I miss you, Ghost, or that the quiet
isn’t welcome relief, but the intimacy
of our time . . . well. If I leaned
across the balcony last night, if I
accused unfairly, hopelessly conjuring
through the crystal of my glass, let’s
call it nostalgia, a name no more wrong
than many we settled on. Ah, remember
the nightmare visits, the wounds,
always wounds? Remember when any bath
was a drowning, each feast rancid,
every bitch’s bone a mocking skull?
Only I, and the cats of those countries,
saw you turning away. How could I help
feeling chosen, to watch you destroy
what you cherished and help draw
its name in ashes, transcribe each blessing
bruised and withered by your touch?
Remember when the sunset—so unlike
last night’s—was blood augury
of the dark to follow and every howl
a song for ciphering? As I have written
these lines, the shroud has been pulled back.
The day’s all blue skies now, all birdsong,
future, dreary promise. I am almost
grateful that you are not here to bear it.
Copyright (c) 2018 by Gaylord Brewer. All rights reserved. Brewer is a professor of English at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfreesboro. His most recent books are a cookbook-memoir, The Poet’s Guide to Food, Drink, & Desire, and a tenth collection, The Feral Condition, from which this poem is excerpted.
Tagged: 2019 Southern Festival of Books, Poems