edited by Shannon Connor Winward
Table of Contents
Editor’s Intro • Ghosts • Shannon Connor Winward
Tulpa • L.W. Salinas
Hart Island • Holly Lyn Walrath
Mysticeti • Akua Lezli Hope
Upstairs Watches, Downstairs Waits • Robin Husen
A Night at Gran’ma Ginny’s • Dawn Cunningham
Be My Geist: A Villanelle • Suzan Pickford
Admittance • Cathleen Allyn Conway
Not a Destination • F.J. Bergmann
Fevered Ream • Daniel R. Jones
Hex Machina • Joe Nazare
Ma’s Late Knight Jam Session • Oliver Smith
Ghost Month • Christina Sng
Summer Hauntings • Andrea Blythe
No Longer Mine • Aisha Tayo Ijadunola
The Doppelgänger and the Ghost • Lev Mirov
Romance • Jessica J. Horowitz
Little Lost Cosmonaut • Charles Christian
“in the starship junkyard” • Lauren McBride
New World Haunting • Ann K. Schwader
Possession • Deborah L. Davitt
Three Worlds • Wendy Rathbone
Bright Matter • John W. Sexton
a stranger in the cemetery whispered to me • Rebecca Buchanan
Embracing the Bear • Jane Yolen
undying • John C. Mannone
Séance at Black Horse Pike • James Edward O’Brien
But after • Alex Harper
If ghosts are the memory of a person bound to a place,
then what are words bound to paper but another form of ghost?
The earthly remains of a Sumerian written in clay,
endlessly complaining about lost shipments of copper ore.
Nothing else left of the kindly man who sang to his children:
only querulous comments scratched to mark where he had once been.
Memories sheltered and protected between leather covers
like the last thylacine at a zoo, precious and endangered.
Or like the last polio virus, terrifying in scope.
Ghosts that weep, rage, laugh, and ponder in their thin paper hallways
and always find their way back to haunt the living who seek them.
With each word we resurrect the dead, allowing them inside.
What, then, of the words we leave behind in our wake carelessly?
Splinters of ghosts running wild, moments in time of who we were,
no covers to keep them safe and no shelf to store them away.
Stray specters screaming into space, a poltergeist made of words.
I am here, I am alive, yet you see my ghosts with each line.
Wild spirits birthed from my mind and hands that you invited in.
We all are haunted by the ghosts of the living and the dead,
surrounded by spirits captured in paper and letters.
Now they fly through the air around us like ghosts in a story.
Recursive ghosts, living in our minds and our eyes and our hearts,
an eternal séance of words and pictures given meaning.
Fragments of moments, endlessly repeating, this phantom bound.
“A hard place to get to if you’re alive, but
an easy place to get lost if you’re dead.”
There are too many ghosts here. We can’t get out.
Looking out over the water, we cling to the fences,
we can’t understand why they keep us in.
Ghost bodies press against ghost bodies,
on living skin we feel like a gentle summer breeze,
a child’s kiss on the back of a hand, the brush of a blade
of grass, but to each other we are magnets unwilling to meet,
our ghost bodies refuse to feel, they want to pull apart at odds
never quite touching the slim space of death between us.
We want out. If only the living would come and burn
our real bodies or bury them far away on safer shores,
excavate our memories. For we can’t remember who we were,
all jumbled up together here, no markers for our names.
Few are prone to remember, the lucky, paid for by
long-lost relatives or synagogues.
They go to white picket-fence graves.
Safe from this world,
mourners lay stones on their faces
to weigh them into the next.
There are too many ghosts here. The ferry brings more each day.
Its prow breaks the brown water, the cranes lifting our shells over masts,
into mass graves. Or else the current brings us more, sucking boats into its maw
and cracking them in its teeth like sunflower seeds.
The old women rule us, they tell us to keep away
from the haunted places—
the asylum, the tenement houses, the hospital,
haunted not by the dead
but by the devourer of the dead.
He walks between aisles of wooden pews,
oak and pine boxes piled upon boxes,
served up like a feast for the island’s heart.
—Holly Lyn Walrath
When Inuits pray to whale
their prayer boat captain lifts his arms
sings aloud that all be kept from harm
that this vessel of life will surrender
relinquish its one self for their many
and that all whale is and carries
transforms to fuel their community.
Below the blue sublittoral zone
after brine stung their eyes
burnt their skin, filled their noses
and mouths, try as they might to float
spread starved limbs on indifferent waves
dream of reaching far home shores
of palm wine, mask dance, foufou
some embraced the inevitable
others fought with the same outcome
these incarcerated, these enslaved
these forsaken, keelhauled, shackled
and bound to an alien ledger
for insurance, jettisoned into the sea.
The whale met the many
and recognized their purity of anguish
their longing to rise up and know land again
to see sky and light above the waves
that buried them, to breathe free—
They reached out to her
exchanged knowledge of a shared cruelty
by the same slayers who used
without gratitude, killed without hunger
who stole and discarded life for profit.
Whale was a hundred when she swam by these waiting souls
who attached to her like the barnacles she wore
swirling around her until each found the right spot
cemented their remnants of being to her vastness
armored her, informed her
some entered whale song
some became sirens after a century
of ocean crossing, others protected her
warning her away from murderous ships
harpoons and ports that rendered her kin
lamp oil and beauty cream for abandoned wives.
The wreath of death preserved her life.
—Akua Lezli Hope
Upstairs Watches, Downstairs Waits
This house was built from the bottom up
It juts like a tooth from the earth
From the flower press of strata
Layers of past lives
Written in rock and bone
The grandfather clock in the hallway
Chips away at time.
The heart of this old house
The stairs are the spine
And every step touches a nerve
The creak calls company
To your climb
The emptiness has edges
Trace fossils creep through
Faults in time
A ghost has no mass
But it does have weight
A newton force which nudges
At your back
A rock fall waiting to happen
Bookended by breaths
Everything turns on the
Earth’s careful count of the age
Could lose its foothold
Time is tide. And you could be left
In the empty socket of your house.
A Night at Gran’ma Ginny’s
A high crescent moon in the still;
me in the dirty green recliner;
feet propped by the lever;
a bed coat for a cover. A whiskey
breeze breathes the diamond
floor—orange, brown, gold—spread
beneath my naked arm. Three
clear rectangles make a stairstep on the front door;
they stare into the changing
moon; the cymbals of oncoming clouds
talk rock music; a light show speaks. The garage
door slams, and the screen door brushes
slate siding of green and gold. Footprints
sniff along marbled linoleum;
the moon becomes fudge;
the refrigerator opens —shines up the sink;
bong, bong, the pendulum drums;
the three rectangles wink. The creeps
vault me up to search prints
smudged on my ears, on my eyes, where … the illuminated
kitchen of Frigidaire closes slowly
softly, so as to not wake
Be My Geist: A Villanelle
Haunted by remnants hidden deep in your closet
roped all together from ceiling to floor
it’s no wonder you lost it, perplexed by the vortex.
Awake late at night
all clowning aside, mayhem abounds
haunted by remnants hidden deep in your closet.
Static in motion
mesmerized by unseen voices
it’s no wonder you lost it, perplexed by the vortex.
No white glove test for clear
(until there is and "they’re here")
haunted by remnants hidden deep in your closet.
What a "geist-ing" game communicating
when small blonde children sneak tv time
it’s no wonder you lost it, perplexed by the vortex.
Swimming amid new skeletons
the old closing in as well
haunted by remnants hidden deep in your closet
it’s no wonder you lost it, perplexed by the vortex.
Dad calls me and says to come pick him up from the hospital.
“You know they’re trying to kill me in here.”
“But you’re dead,” I say.
“I’m better now,” he replies.
“It’s happened before.”
And it had:
When his life started to ebb and the nurse
straddled his Buddha belly like a lover,
pounding his heart back to beats.
Or when he was sentenced to decay
in the nursing home, browning teeth
dropping like acorns from his mouth.
But he asked the therapists not to give up,
and they worked his carcass all day every day
until he went home. And now he calls me again.
“But we buried you,” I say. We put you in the ground
as the flag was folded and the rifle-cracks in the cold
shocked choking sobs from Mom. We did this and it’s done.
So I know he can’t be there, in his last hospital room,
wondering why the nurses ignore him,
why we haven’t come to take him home.
—Cathleen Allyn Conway
Not a Destination
He had left in a rush
of blinking lights, dwindling
beeps, frenzied hospital staff
skidding machines closer
or out of the way, inserting tubes
and needles. He slipped out
while they were busy, no longer
wearing the embarrassing
gown, but his best dark suit.
He carried his wool overcoat
and leather briefcase.
In front of the hospital,
a somber chauffeur opened
the door of a limousine,
bowing, and he thought at first
that he would ride in style
all the way to the end,
looking around the interior
to see if it was the kind
with a built-in bar,
but soon his driver pulled up
along the curb by the station,
got out and held the door open,
bowing to him in dismissal,
and he saw the waiting train
and its black plume of smoke.
Against a heat-lightning veneer of 130-thread count you slip from your die-cast sarcophagus comatose to ghost, soul tethered to body like a dangling tooth a child is not willing to yank;
don’t know that you’re dead so your soul lingers in room 607 of St. Vincent’s Hospital like it’s got nothing better to do, lifting out of body, settling back in, like tossing and turning in a hospital-standard twin-size adjustable.
You burn blue across an Elysian nebula hung high between the star of Bethlehem and another; a route drawn faint by an aura luna moth streetlight-seeking, pouring pools of amber over aircraft contrails before clattering down, down: a blip on the Hubble as you land a far cry from Mount Moriah and a scientist on the other end of the monitor blinks twice before uttering:
I saw one
—Daniel R. Jones
Running amok at exponential rate, the cutting edge
Ended up scything grimly through society.
The bitbots had been designed to reconstruct damaged cells,
But malfunctioned or mutated, escaped from the human
To overwhelm the landscape with a profusion of fabrication.
Autumn trees continuously rebloomed, loosing a barrage of foliage;
Putrefying foodstuff refreshed, spilling from trashcan cornucopia.
Yet the most unimaginable ramification was realized
When the bots in their indiscriminate widgecraft latched
Onto whatever ectoplasm floated in the atmosphere.
In a topsy-turvy world of apocalyptic abundance, the machines
Were now in the ghost, the supernatural nanotechnologized.
Spectral souls were woven overt, forming an omnipresent throng
Of the embodied embittered that promptly haunted the living,
Giving a terrible tangibility to proverbial nocturnal bumps.
Ma’s Late Knight Jam Session
The summer fruit grew in fantastical
And marvellous forms as it was sheltered
From larcenous avian predation
Under Pa’s bird-nets, which spread over bushes
For miles in dense rolls of fine nylon mesh.
The long spines of his gooseberries
Were particularly impressive:
They grew sharper than lances, impaling
Dim-minded knights who had disembarked
From the number ten bus in search of Mount Badon.
More than fifteen hundred years overdue
Owing to works on the line at east Croydon
They had been self-righteous and riotous
Moody and filled with anger at the Saxons’
Inability to co-ordinate transportation.
Being forbidden by law to access
Knightly arms or to carry bladed weapons
With the intention of committing
Violence against Saxon property or persons.
They intended to fashion staves, clubs, wands
Shillelaghs, and other blunt weapons from wood,
However, while gathering branches they became
Disorientated, as they couldn’t see the damned
Wood for the trees. They fell unwittingly
Among Pa’s fruit bushes, tempted and lured
By the paradisal ebullience of the blackcurrants,
Ripe and sweet, and hanging in pendulous bunches.
On the ground strawberries swelled red
As the thrashed buttocks of masochistic elves
While the raspberries resembled the inflamed noses
Of apple farmers swimming in the cider casks
Like majestic cetaceans in the arctic ocean.
I assume through carelessness the deceased
Chevaliers became muddled with the crop
And were accidentally added to the maslin pan.
Perhaps the greedy things ate so much that
They took on a sympathetic resemblance to berries
As their mothers once warned they would.
They reached a sticky end in Ma’s tootty-fruitty jam.
Now at breakfast time an eyeball stares
Accusingly from the bottom of the jar.
It is red-rimmed and horribly medieval.
I try to avoid its gaze; being mostly vegetarian
I feel embarrassed that my favourite conserve
Contains additives of non-vegetable origin.
August rain falls lightly
On the summer-scorched soil.
The ghost month is taking its toll,
With spirits about a thousandfold.
They swirl like tendrils unfurled
In a crack-ridden tsunami ride
And feast on the offerings
Laid on the ground, reliving
Their life and death stories
In mists of clouds.
in this heat—blacktopped roads go gummy
as tar, plastic deck chairs soften
and sag, flameless candles
weep thick waxy tears, cactuses
droop their spiked heads. Even the ghosts
collapse over clotheslines and tree branches, dripping
like clocks in a Dalí painting, all
their footsteps and whisperings, cupboard slamming and shadowing
stilled by the oppression of the hot night,
their insubstantial forms unable
to even lift into drifting mists or orbs. Their ectoplasm,
molten and tacky as candy, sticks to the soles
of your shoes, mattes your hair, clings
in gooey lines to your arms
as you mistakenly brush past the ghosts
in the dark—the residue gathering up bits of dirt
and regret, grime and heartache,
things difficult to wash away, the sludge merely smearing
as you scrub yourself raw with turpentine
and the obliteration of memory.
No Longer Mine
My mother’s eyes are beautiful
Brown and big and bloodshot
She was crying for me
She knows I’m close
Each spoonful she puts to my mouth
You steal it, you always steal
How long has it been since I’ve eaten?
I can’t remember
My skin, like a raisin
My hair, dry like hay
My bones, near exposed
This body is no longer mine
I feel her tears on my face
Please demon don’t take my place
Aren’t you satisfied? Aren’t you full?
Aren’t you done Abiku?
—Aisha Tayo Ijadunola
The Doppelgänger and the Ghost
My doppelganger had a continuous and unbroken history of me
that far outdates my five years of visible life.
She walked around with my body, wearing a name everyone knew,
draining my life to keep her vitality, until I exposed her to sunlight.
When the sun came blazing in through the gap of my skin,
she burned down to her bones, leaving only remnants and jewelry.
I am not what remains of her after the fire, or some phoenix—
I am what the house was hiding, locked away,
set free into the ruin after the conflagration
the unloved brother that starved, forgotten.
I have tried to take my body back from her,
cutting all my hair off in the kitchen with scissors
until the birds nest of my scalp showed no sign of her,
that pretty, red-haired, green-eyed bloodsucker my mother made.
I have excised her from my body the best I can—
but these bones bend so easily, things fall out of place
and it is hard to compress myself into the proper shape.
These days I see myself, when looking: my mouse-brown Caesar cut
my father’s high-browed face dark with a young beard
so much hair it grows curly on my toes like a Harfoot.
Even my eyes are mine again; weak tea, amber rum at dusk
sloping back to Santa Catalina where this shape begins—
no one ever mistakes me for my mother’s child.
In another year or two every cell that was my doppelganger will be gone—
deconstructed on the molecular level
sloughed off in the shower or blown away in the wind.
If only it were a complete rebuilding, just the way I want it:
ligaments tight and new, never pulling out of orbit
muscle tissue shifted across the torso, new lean lines
bones that do not know the ache of dying
and cannot predict tomorrow’s weather.
But nothing happens perfectly, not even death
and my doppelganger haunts dark places in other houses.
Devoted to her memory, my parents swear she is the real child
and I am the wolf who swallowed her whole.
I press on my stomach, looking for signs I am devouring.
I bare my teeth in the mirror to look at my overbite
and unhinge my jaw, to see if this mouth can swallow witches whole.
But the smell of death turns my stomach every time
and I do not have Screwtape’s taste for souls in a cup.
I turn over my wrists, pale and weak-veined, and trace my heartline
following the blood that remains post exhumation.
But I find no signs of my monstrosity, no hunger that cannot be filled
although I have watched the world recoil from me like a demon.
Of the monsters that my mother birthed, I am the lesser—
only a dead thing that will not stay in the ground
a son from another life returned as a heavy-footed ghost
the bodily resurrection we all were promised come too soon.
You say you don’t believe in ghosts
but are more than eager
to kiss me under the light
of long-dead stars.
—Jessica J. Horowitz
Little Lost Cosmonaut*
Poor little Valentinka
Lovely little Valentinka
Floating in her tin-can
Heaven above, the Earth below
Both unattainable now
A jammed valve 50 years before
Hypoxia then asphyxia
oxygen starvation and death
The ghost of Valentinka stares down
at her own desiccated body
Celebrated and beautiful in life
she could have been a red star
in the Soviet firmament
with her own black ZiL limousine
and a dacha in the country
Valentinka’s ghost still recalls
the taste of vodka, the smell of borscht
the sound of the balalaika
And walking hand-in-hand in Gorky Park
then kissing by the banks of the Moskva
But hers was a secret mission
and Mother Russia buries her mistakes
Everyone she ever loved or trusted
is now dead and gone or else chose
to forget the girl they once knew
Standing by her capsule’s window
from time to time she sees the flares
of rocket-ships soaring up from Earth
Maybe tomorrow rescue will come?
But no one sees or hears her signals
Like a Matryoshka nest of dolls:
lift the hatch, open the Vostok
see the shrivelled corpse, free the ghost
Poor little Valentinka
Lonely little Valentinka
* There is a long-running conspiracy theory that, during the late 1950s and early 1960s, as many as 18 Soviet cosmonauts (including two women) were lost in space on never-publicly disclosed flights. The majority are still out there.
in the starship junkyard
viewscreens flicker on—
New World Haunting
Sleep capsules failed: we never found out why
our rest became eternal. All in all,
you couldn’t ask a finer way to die,
aside from not quite knowing. Planetfall
unlatched our clamshells. Thawing into dust
& spirit, we persisted, though the call
to disembark rang hollow as the trust
we’d wired our lives into. Against a sun
that spawns no shadows, drifting as we must
across this landscape loaded like a gun
no longer fit to kill us, we aspire
despite ourselves. Or lack of same. Undone
in flesh, we colonize by raw desire
a fellow wanderer through distant fires.
—Ann K. Schwader
A crimson star bloats
devouring its children;
a planet weighted
with souls lies within its grasp.
Too many for ships to save,
billions choose electric dreams,
encoding themselves as light,
into packets of data,
consciousness lost in the void.
Bent by gravity and time,
minor fidelity loss
expected. But I
don’t want to go, to wake as
another self, and not know.
We were meant to wake
when received by antennas,
undying mechanoid forms,
a fresh start on distant worlds.
An eyeblink later,
a billion years on, the worst
occurs when I wake
in a stranger’s body, mind,
screaming with inchoate fear.
it knew I was there, and we
scrabbled for control
of a body not my own;
it thought it was going mad,
while I sank into
a psychic abyss, consumed,
like the star devoured
my old home. Memories spark—
last whisper of consciousness—
My mirrored face looks
alien, other. I know
my name, but visions
of distant worlds haunt me,
and I dream of refugees.
What is wrong with me?
They say it’s a parasite—
—I can only scream—
My body seems wrong to me,
and all I want is to flee.
—Deborah L. Davitt
Once when I did not exist
three worlds called to me
a world of red sky
and lightning and jagged doorways
became a mirror in which
was a series of white cities
lit from within
everyone had moth wings
everyone streaked the windows
with their frantic blood
twisted in a golden silence
and offered to nurse me on
leaves and stars
to remain there
I had to drink the lamplight
of ribboned streets
and give up the years
and make my eyes husks
and dangle my skeleton like a bell
over the adrift dimensions
to meet my ghost
The ghosts of moths flit about her face.
Don’t be fidgeting, Sally.
On her clothes: small bodies like clothes themselves.
Why do the dead of moths come to her?
She knows that no one can see the silver on her skin.
Her face and hands are bright with their spectral stain.
One night a while back she had stood by her window,
listening to the living moths beating at the glass.
They so desperately wanted to die.
In the morning dull smears dotted the pane.
But the ghost moths covered her: a robe of light.
More alive dead than when they were alive.
How could she know that when a moth expires
the sun gains a moth’s weight in mass?
How could she know that the silver of moths
are the ashes of their being?
Destined to burn they are born already burned.
Moths: each step in the sedge: moths.
—John W. Sexton
a stranger in the cemetery whispered to me
it is said by those
who claim to know the
truth of such things that
souls. perhaps this is
the way of things. i
tell you this, though: bright-
eyed raccoons and great-
antlered stags haunt the
edges of ev’ry
road, spirit flocks of
geese make their way from
winter land to sum-
mer and back again,
and a quiet snake,
shadow-scaled, rests a-
mong the roots of the
dead oak tree. i have
seen no two-legged
Embracing the Bear
He smells like wet wool, like meat,
like winter in a cave,
like the tail-end of a long sleep,
like unbrushed teeth,
like armpits and crotch,
like sex in unwashed bed linen,
like the second time that night.
When he stands on his hind legs,
knee-deep in bracken, to embrace me,
he is so like a man, he breaks the spell.
I’d rather the bear, belly to the ground,
than this poor imitation, this ghosting
of my husband who left me eight years ago
to marry death.
“Embracing the Bear.” Copyright © 2016 by Jane Yolen.
let the spirits of the dead
slip through God’s fingers
|| re-enter your bodies || feel
yourselves quiver exhaling
black dust || unchoke coal
from your throats || watch
tons deluge from walls ||
ceiling || move away from
the final entrance || step
back into the elevator ||
start laughing halfway up
the shaft || at a joke about
mine safety and waiting for
someone to unkill the bill
for more inspections ||
try to forget the undying
allegiance || laugh some
more || slip past the door
|| put your helmet & gear
in the corner of your
shanty and unbreak your
wife’s heart || unpress
your lips hard to hers ||
sit at the kitchen table
|| unswirl the coffee
from the cup || untaste
the eggs before they’re
returned to pan to shell ||
don’t pray with your wife
|| slip back into bed ||
untouch her || don’t listen
to the rooster || don’t let
the dawn in
—John C. Mannone
Séance at Black Horse Pike
There are spots where the past bleeds into the here-and-now like a cheap paint job—quiet places where no footfalls can be heard, regardless of how hard we tread.
Maybe it’s the shoes, or maybe we’ve stopped listening, or maybe the ghosts have just rallied so long they’ve all been stricken hoarse.
Even deaf, the pain’s just as prickly, the distance too long to mend with the legs we’ve been given, or the legs taken from us.
There hasn’t been a boot sole cobbled to suit a journey like this one. It’s sensate as drowning, between the weight and the terror and the soundless thrashing.
It was all very alive once—all of it—the world an overripe plum, just out of reach with the arms we’ve been given, or the arms taken from us.
A knock on the table, a guttering candle, the anticipation like ice in our guts, awaiting our invite to a place that might have never been to begin with.
—James Edward O’Brien
in the tunnel
of white light
you’ve done this
ninety times before
the day you went round on the loop
of the circle line
because you wanted to see
people, and had nothing
else to do, soon
you will decide
to the clatter and the noise,
the chance of love, the rush
of blood, and though
the shadow of the end
lengthens as the day grows old
then turns to dust
it will restart at dawn—
you tell yourself but
the fear that walked beside you
which almost puts you off
but there are things to do
you left undone and seas to watch
you’ve never seen, words
you’ve never spoken and there is
you head home
for the roil and the colour
and the dreams,
down the tunnel
of white light,
landing gently in
a newborn heart,