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Home > Holidays > Samhain > Ghosts: A Poem Search

by James McEuen

I take each ghost that comes
to me in my arms, stroke the pondweed
hair of the drowned, the pork-crackling
brows of the burned, the round blue cheeks
of the smothered, the rag-doll
contorted car smash-ups
and rock them on my heart: the autonomic

rising and falling and throbbing
that living mammals find reassuring
reassures them. Though there is no
nurture from these male nipples
and pectorals, they need none.
I tell them as I hold them
that it's over, that it is all
right, that this happens
to everyone, that they can't

by asking for Heath bars,
coffee, icewater, cigarettes,
strawberries, pickles, wine,
by begging to watch sex, sing,
or play ring-a-levio--that they can't
by clutching these dark
earth's clouds to their faces
like the well-worn nubby blankets
on a child's bed see the light
they are of now. They ask why

I believe this and why I
don't believe them. I say
"there there" and they quiet.
Some I have seen leave:
the dawning, not the dramatic
dawn of the planet, but a little burst
of recognition like
a butterfly taking off
from tree bark for migration,
or a held dandelion tuft diffusing
in an opening red door's wind.

Others have moved in.

While this poem wasn't specifically written for Samhain, many Pagans say that it deftly captures much of the mood of the holiday. "Ghosts" is reprinted here by kind permission of the author, who says "'Ghosts' was published in Poetry Northwest magazine (University of Washington, Seattle) and later in my book of poetry, Snake Country."

For more information on Samhain (Halloween),
visit The Cauldron's Samhain Page

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