Hungry Ghosts

by Tony Barnstone

Old friend, you write, Why write? It’s all trash,
nothing to say. Maybe you’re right. Why keep writing
with this tool to inscribe time, line by line, measuring
what is lost as it leaves? No one reads this stuff.

If only the words were a body I could inhabit
and you could feel me through this membrane,
like skins touching. I remember one day telling you
I felt I was just starting to wake from the long dumb

sleep of childhood, but was lost in the dark rush
of the senses, and I imagined my spirit
as blind, reaching through flesh and tickertape
consciousness, a hand trying to grasp itself.

I would like to believe in souls reaching through
the flesh of understanding, hungry to be seen
and detecting each other through defective means.
I would like to believe this life is a sleep we’ll wake from,

that some conductor drives our spirits through
this tunnel and for a reason. But I find myself talking
in darkness, huddled around the narrow flame
of my own being, the way a child I knew, yes, me,

would walk home from the bus stop chanting nonsense
because when he fell silent the empty dark
closed in and made him know how blind he was,
how ravenous for dinner, lights, and mother.

And he would make the television blaze and shout
just to stop that dead black eye from staring.
And in bed, he’d pull the covers over his head
when his mother said, Lights out, and pray for sleep.

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