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Monday, October 31, 2011

Ghostly Meanderings

Happy Halloween! My favorite childhood holiday,when we cast off our little selves and became dreadful creatures of the night. It's Samhain, Witches' New Year, All Hallow's Eve. Whatever you call it, the dead are with us today. They always are, of course, because we carry them with us wherever we go. We choose to be haunted, and this holiday celebrates the otherworld and acknowledges its overlap with ours.

A few years ago in Munich I was taking notes for a poem about the ghost of Hitler, doomed eternally to bus tables at the HofbrÀuhaus where it all started. I saw him harried, ordered about by Teutonic waitrons, toting empty steins to the kitchen while trying to grab a bite of schnitzel between tables.

That's where the poem began, but that's not where it ended. All that's left of my original scribblings is the phrase: ...night along the River Isar... 

Poetry is headstrong and tricky. Like an evil parent who promises a treat then takes you to the dentist, it leads you on to places you wouldn't have gone if only you'd known. Places you didn't know were haunted:

Ghost Poem, I

I have seen them too,
These tricks of light.
Or felt them

No one stands there at the window
Gazing through the watery panes
As if waiting

In the alley
No washwoman treads the
Stones ahead singing of spring cuckoos

And that night along the River Isar
The bright moon revealed nothing,
When empty dreams rang out with echoes

But the whispers are different.
No trick explains the sudden voice that says
“Bring me my cane, Rose” or
“That was the other one. I did not mean this.”

A place does not know quiet or alone
Where memories range like scattered leaves across a floor,
And burdened shadows hide no tranquil void
Where tides of murmurs plunge and rise.

And so you see. Someday I'll go back to the Hitler poem. We'll see where it takes me next.

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