I found him in my bed
As though each of the chambers of his heart
Were a room infested with phantoms
And for the moment I forgot
The ease with which he makes me laugh
Or my hope that once the honeymoon is over
Each small joke and awful pun
Will still make me joyfully erupt.
And I forgot for a moment how
When he kisses me I feel it all the way down
Or how he was the first
To make me feel safe
And cared for and valued
Without vanishing the next day
As though he himself were a phantom.
I forgot these things in the face of his ghosts
Whom I found in my bed
Pale-faced and wandering as ghosts so often do
Drifting out from the rooms in his heart
To wander the caverns of his arteries
And waft among the weary worn paths of his veins
Filling him up until his ghosts were all I saw
And somewhere behind them all
Small and unassuming
A child waiting out the storm.
He would return when the ghosts had gone
And it was safe again
But ghosts such as these
They never leave.
They hang on like ticks in your skin
Like a hook in the gill
They seep down through the muscle and sinew
Soak in through the bones
And make your marrow their home—
No exorcist nor blessing can drive such ghosts away
These ghosts become you.
And there they were
All wrapped up in my bed
And I forgot everything but
What we were.
He but a man
And I his shelter
Curling around him in effort to shield him
From such hauntings
With the weight of my body and the heat of my skin.
I held his ghosts to me.
Ghosts, I whispered in their phantom ears
Do not scare me.
Ghosts—their company I keep
They haunt me in my sleep
They follow me on the bus, in my car
Winding across the world in ever narrowing circles
I keep ghosts of my own.
My ghosts become me
I told him
Whispered through the ghosts that had become him
To reach him where he lay
Waiting out the storm.
“Your ghosts, your scars—
Your dissociative amnesia
It does not scare me.”
And when by the firelight he told me those haunted house stories
As best I knew how
And I held his hand to keep him near.
“I will be your talisman,”
My hands they said to his.
“I cannot keep your ghosts at bay
But I can keep you floating.”
And when his voice began to shake and break
And his eyes staring not at me but at the ceiling
Grew wet and red
I thought him so beautiful
And when he could speak no more
I kissed him.
I am not afraid of ghosts
My lips told his
For I am haunted, too.
Let our ghosts keep each other company
For the skies are a sea of phantoms
And when the rooms of your heart do flood
As they surely, inevitably will
I will not let you drown.
Tonight was an exciting night! This is the first time I’ve memorized a poem for a reading or slam, though if you watch the video you’ll see that I stumbled a bit. Regardless this is perhaps the best reading I’ve had. I mean…I actually cried.
Do you have any idea how many times I recited this sans tears? I don’t know why I cried this time, I just did. And people apparently loved it because my scores ranged from 8.7 to a perfect 10. Not only that, but when I went to buy the book from the fabulous (the truly amazing) feature poet Turiya Autry she gave me what is perhaps the highest praise I’ve yet received — in large part because it was from such a fabulous poet and performer, but also because…I mean…it’s always fantastic to be told that your poetry is deeply moving and your words powerful, and the fact that it came from a fellow poet and performer — but more than that, a published and recognized poet and performer — is a little overwhelming in its goodness.
Seriously — is this even real life?!
So even though I didn’t get into the second round (crying added a bit more to my time deduction than I’d been planning on) it was still a fabulous night. Thank you for sharing it with me. 🙂