Daily Archives: December 1, 2016

The Ghost Caressing My Face

Startled by
a ghost caressing
my face when

I do not believe in
ghosts, so I’m not sure
how to explain this

to my senses beyond this:
I saw a wavering film in the room,
and it had a hand upon my cheek

before it disappeared,
so I will call it a ghost until 
I think of a better phrase

for the phenomenon,
just as I do not believe
in fate or luck but still

cross my fingers
and close my eyes 
when I’m watching 

a baseball game or
the television news. 
After all, it may be

that I’ve got it all wrong
and the stars do influence
human events, maybe

the stone I carry
in my medicine bag
means more than just tradition,

maybe prophecies come true
all over the place and I
have gone too far away

from the place where wonder
and awe work true spells,
and sacred magic 

is more than a trick or two
to keep a terrified mind
from screaming — 

so come on, ghost,
caress my face,

calm me, I don’t care tonight

if you are demon or angel
or something utterly else
we haven’t yet 
correctly named

for it felt good
to be cared for
by something 
in this universe

that lately seems so intent
on crushing the last spark
out of our spirits.


Catskills

Chasing a memory tonight

of driving in the Catskills
among thousands of trees
and thousands of whitetail deer
under the infinite cloud of stars
called the Milky Way

Top speed on the narrow roads
was reduced to
as slow as possible

Over half the houses were empty
Many abandoned and neglected
Others shuttered but well kept

and the Milky Way
as bright as it should always be
out there
so far from the city 

broadly strung horizon to horizon
thick and visible enough to reinforce
how empty the woods were
of everything but trees and deer

who did not move 
when headlights hit them
their numbers giving them
the certainty and the confidence
to stand their ground

Counted 40 while I was stopped
by just one road-clogging herd

Creeping through close enough
to open a window
and (perhaps) touch one then
finding 15 around the next bend
and the next until
before I could reach my destination
I simply stopped counting 
in the low hundreds

I learned the next day from a local resident
that this was all dairy country once

Hundreds of farms in its heyday
now down to 35 in all of the county
Most of the rest were simply abandoned
and those pastures gone wild
were perfect habitat
for the whitetails
who had become so numerous
that there were fears
of a die-off coming soon
on the way to regaining 
balance

I am thinking of this tonight

while sitting here
dreading the morning news
because I have to try as well 
to recall a time when I saw
what it might be like if America
abandoned the land it liked to think of 
as its tamed birthright

and let that land re-invent itself
healing into a new balance
under a free and inviolate sky