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Ghost Supper

by David Wojahn

Under the trellised arbor, and our supper’s over
in the memory I’ve found myself inside.


L not speaking, and beside us the river
sliding softly by. Now the light will fade


to moonlit water. And in memory I work
to make this lingering accurate and sweet.


White ouzo and her hand that lifts the grapes,
first to her lips, then to mine. I may as well speak


to moonlight as to her. And the walls of Bruges
light up again, a costume jewelry pearl string.


Her profile and her shawl hugged tight against the breeze
in memory’s flammable celluloid—flaring


and gone, replaced by bread and grapes, a checkered
tablecloth. The two chairs stare each other down,


empty now, upon which moonlight flickered
all night. The bread and grapes drip mist as dawn


carves the morning with a chilly wind,
slicing away both moon and fog. Now someone


without a name appears—first the fevered hands,
Dustdevil quick, that grope for the food in vain.


Then the pale light shows the open mouth
and rippling throat, white face on black water,


sparrow-flock fast, its spiraling path.
But the bread and grapes stay where they were,


their smell tormenting that famished ghost, helpless
to even lick away the dew that gathers


on the grapes, blue fluted sides of the wineglasses.
Dawnlight, everything dripping wet, and the chairs


stare at each other, alone. Sometimes on the riverbank
you can sense an odor—of grapes, or sex, or memory.


It swirls through the moonlit grass. And now wakes
someone always mute, someone without a body


weaving also through the half-lit grass.
The hoarse wail of someone who cannot speak,


who reaches out but cannot touch the grass,
and only the nostrils flare. Now the dawn will break,


late autumn cold. To crave so endlessly the warmth—
the blood-pulsing fingertip, the body to embrace,


the pungent smells commingling. To rise like breath
and slither through the trees and tangle every branch


in this unappeasable longing, this endless lust
for touch and smell which afflicts the dead.


The souls in the trees face the gathering light.
Other times, in the ground, the rain torments them.

Read at St. Lydia’s on March 21, 2013


Posted in: Poems

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