Poetic Ghosts

gravesend cover picture

Being exposed to contemporary poetry is so refreshing. In truth, I’m kind of fed up with the Euro-centric ideals of 17th and 18th century British poetry (sorry Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare, Keats, etc.!)

Anyway, I’m going through Gravesend, a collection by Cole Swenson, and it’s very provocative. Creepy, (only because I’m a wuss) but provocative. I’m basing my seminar paper on this collection, but just now, it inspired a dialogue between two characters. (My poor story; it’s been put on the back-burner until I finish this Masters…) Here it is:

The wind pulled the sheets of water back taut, then let them loose. They thrashed against the window in cyclical waves. Briseis and Theo were still with exhaustion, but wide awake, staring at the ceiling with an almost religious observance. Theo risked a brief look sideways, and confirmed she was awake.

What are you thinking?

After a brief pause, she responded.

I try not to think of my mortality, but it makes an uninvited overture almost daily. We are ghosts.

How do you mean?

Just that. One foot in the grave. I find myself immobile because of it.

It doesn’t make sense.

Doesn’t have to. I saw my sister on the train yesterday.


And she lives in Japan.

That’s not possible.

It is, entirely.

Why do you torment yourself?

Why don’t you?

I choose to be happy.

That choice is not ours to make.

Whose is it then?

The people you never meet. Things that are not really there.

How can that possibly hold sway over my life, my emotions?

How could it not? People live and die for the things that cannot be explained. It’s the material that’s insubstantial.

I’m not sure I follow. But even if I did, I don’t agree with you.

That’s one thing we have in common, then.


I disagree with myself just as often. A return to the uncanny. I told you—we’re ghosts.



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