Oh / can’t you handle / a ghost?
– Alice Notley
I can’t think of a time she uses it. The word. Ghost.
My difficulty. Believing this. There are ghosts
everywhere in her words. She just uses other.
Words. Toxins. Hormones. So we talk about
the words she does use. About the way they sit
within the body. And we talk about present. Talk
time. Talk quantum something. Oh. I say.
We should talk about the other meaning. You know.
No-one thinks she meant that. Even me. Until
I do. This meaning a shadow. As if a momentary
feeling of wholeness weren’t constant. Ly shattered.
I could offer a reading. Of the poem. Of the bone
flute. Drawn from the body. But. But this is not.
Possible. Instead. I unwrap the word. Present.
Remind me. I say. Remind me what St Augustine
said. Time as a hormone. Time as a toxin. Time
infects. The body. Time turns the bone to flute. Gifts
its hollowed body music. Marrowless. Shaded.
for Emily Stewart
Image: Mark Nye / flickr
If you enjoyed this poem, buy the issue
Overland is a not-for-profit magazine with a proud history of supporting writers, and publishing ideas and voices often excluded from other places.
Subscribe | Renew | Donate November 9–16 to support progressive literary culture for another year – and for the chance to win magnificent prizes!