Theirs was not a ghost story per se—
the old couple would never have stood for that.
But they were dead and sore confused
by locks and such, wind in the hands
that could not grasp no matter how slow
the approach, mirrors, and the arrogant
strangers in their house. ‘Surely they can
see us,’ they would mutter to themselves,
sitting on the beds of the intruders as they
shifted in their sleep. They shouted into
the ears of the grownups, lowered their
faces over the lips of the children and blew
mightily, stirring nothing but their own
annoyance and doubts. Commands
and invective were ignored. Obscene
displays were attempted and abandoned,
for they simply walked through each other:
one hugging the curtains, the other stroking
a tulip. Banging on walls and floors was also
no good, for they could find no surface willing
to be struck by the likes of them. Off-key
singing and the rattling of pans were equally
impossible, they soon realized, and shrugged
sour. They took to staring at their hands
on old grey sheets until they grew faint.
Then at each other. Then back to their hands.
Whole days were consumed in this manner,
where they learned they had neither bones nor
names, heat nor taste, only the air of everlasting
occasion as under the house in a low, minor key,
an old cat told a Chinese tale—eyes closed,
mouth near dirt, she droned on and on
to the delight of her young. This they heard
and did not wish to howl upon. With eyes slowly
closing, lips pursed as if to kiss time, that time
once more… Well, if sleep would have them,
they would go.
by Matt Dennison
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Editor’s Note: This narrative poem takes the reader from one moment to the next via superb imagery, until at the end, the story folds into its inexorable, inevitable close.
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