It is a bad time to be a ghost
                                                                 what with all the hunters out there.
                                                                 But they persevere living in the smallest
                                                                 of towns they can find. For some, 
                                                                 it means going home. 
                                                                 Too many give 
                                                                 up their mansions or boughs,
                                                                 their smoke in favor of oiled
                                                                 boots and two pairs of socks. They float
                                                                 down the heavy asphalt highway 
                                                                 from the bowling alley to the bar
                                                                 like they are on a booze cruise
                                                                 and they regale each other with stories
                                                                 of their living days. One reaches down
                                                                 and moves a pebble closer to the ditch
                                                                 to prove he is not useless. Company trucks
                                                                 parked in every driveway. The refinery
                                                                 is so far from the crude oil here it’s easy
                                                                 to forget what it becomes. Where it is from.

                                                                 Lilac steeps in the humidity curling the corner
                                                                 of a ghost’s former home. He remembers
                                                                 his wife planting it, waking to the taste 
                                                                 in his mouth like syrup from a freezer pop.
                                                                 In life they were so poor they could only afford
                                                                 to open one door a day. What dim logic tied
                                                                 him to the pumpjacks of his youth? His son
                                                                 still leaves small piles of food in remembrance.
                                                                 He lost his arm before he died, and has spent years
                                                                 looking in every hole a pulling unit opens.
                                                                 He finds himself in the crow’s nest, 
                                                                 on the pipe rack, atop the horse head
                                                                 of the pumpjack wishing he could feel 
                                                                 the easy shade of a cloud covering the sun.

                                                                 They can’t afford to leave now, the ghosts
                                                                 back home.  For them the street hovers 
                                                                 an inch above the ground. For them, 
                                                                 the low cool of the ground
                                                                 is distant as the moon.
                                                                 As morning approaches they retire
                                                                 dragging their chains back to the beds
                                                                 of their trucks. They might soon
                                                                 pull a man’s arm out of a well. 
                                                                 The empty streets and closed-up shops
                                                                 and the séances rattling from the machines
                                                                 they were born feeling in their feet 
                                                                 are kinda big with the ghosts 
                                                                 back home. Their stories don’t scare anyone, 
                                                                 but in the spare moment of twilight they still write.

Dustin Parsons an Assistant Professor of English at Fredonia State University. He served as nonfiction editor for Mid-American Review for five years and was the recipient of a NYFA Nonfiction grant and an Ohio State Arts Grant in nonfiction. He has work appearing or forthcoming in American Literary Review, Fourth River Review, Seneca Review, and I-70 Review. He lives in Western New York with his wife, poet Aimee Nezhukumatathil, and their two sons.

Asked what old thing he would be, he replied, “I’d be the castle rock formation in western Kansas—a limestone formation left over from the glacial retreat, I’d look like craggly twenty-foot-tall fingers rising up out of the hard pan in the valley of Gove County, Kansas. I’d have been subject to the winds and the elements, blowing small breath-fulls of my self away, for nearly 700,000 years.”

Back to Issue 2: Old Things

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