Poetry | January 07, 2022

What specter? This baby’s love? An extinct animal? Keats’s ghastly prismatic ghost-hand reaching beyond the grave? My stepmother’s grandmother, now blind, head throbbingas she labors to breathe, mouths commands to voice-recognition software.She just wants to see her family,and not through glass, and maybe not ever again.A nurse spoon-feeds her supper,helps her to the bathroom,tries to practice kindness throughher mask and plastic visor,through her taped-on gown and gloves.What specter? What eidolon?What phantom? At night we watchan actress dressed up as a princessdressed up as Christine singing“All I Ask of You” to her ghoulishmenacing husband who hates her.She’ll be a ghost in the next season,when her car phantoms into the wallof a Parisian tunnel in the spectral night.We watch the fog sink in the graveyardbehind our house. In OctoberI walk through the back partwhere the oldest graves are,along the river, crying and snappingmorbid pictures of all the stonesthat read Baby, Baby, Our Beloved Babies,Mother & Baby, Our Beloved Infant Daughter,Our Beloved Infant Son. How many graves are from 1919, 1920, the last pandemic?I weep on a stone bench, go home
and carve pumpkins into glowing skulls
with my children who ooh and ahhhover their luminescence. There, in the corner of mine eye, a ghost go-eth, curly haired, noose aroundhis neck, shaking his fist in my direction,whispering Dumb bitch. In November the deaths top a quarter of a million.In December we lose and lose. I run through the graveyard. What loosepebbles slide beneath my athletic shoes? What pointed leafless boughs snagthe bitter wind? What ghost? What specter?What phantom? What fog? What creeping miasma, come to carryus Lethe-wards, come to sink and sink?

If you are a student, faculty member, or staff member at an institution whose library subscribes to Project Muse, you can read this piece and the full archives of the Missouri Review for free. Check this list to see if your library is a Project Muse subscriber.