Ghosts – by Rustin Larson
There is the story of the bride who caught fire
brushing the candelabra, who took a tumble
down the marble staircase, who broke her neck
on her wedding day. She continues to haunt
the hotel, dancing alone in the ballroom
as the elderly Scottish bellman, also a ghost,
applauds kind-heartedly. “Poor lass,” he mutters
to himself. “Poor wee lass.”
There is the woman with the wild poodle’s hair
who haunts the library. She insists I find the book
on The Ecstatic Dance which we do not own.
At night I watch an episode where everyone
catches an aphasia virus and starts speaking
coffee house poetry from the 1950s.
My Kleenex takes a nap on the table
and looks like a weary ghost.
The money in the coin pouch has touched
so many hands, some of whom are no longer
living. I can hear the mouse singing in the rafters,
a soft song like an anemic wren.
I keep meeting myself as a child walking
with no shoes down the burning sidewalk, seeking out
the curbing for patches of wet grass, passing
the telephone company’s local nerve center,
the door propped open for the heat,
the women inside with their headsets
and black spaghetti of cables and plugs
and switches. One of them once scolded me
when I made a prank call to a neighbor.
I pretended I knew about Harry who was betting
on the horses. “You don’t know my Harry!”
The woman laughed. I hung up and a few seconds
later the phone rang. The jig was up.
All those telephone workers are dead
or in the nursing home now, but one of them
scared the bejesus out of me. Her voice
was so stern and cold and I could tell
her name was Phyllis and she wore
a blue print dress of maple leaves and sharp branches.