Saturday, June 16, 2012

On Ghosts...

I can do a lot of things with the past. I can look back at it, from the vantage point of the present, and attempt to make some sense of it. I do this by times. Or I can try to retell the past, to myself, or anyone else who will listen. Not everyone will. I try not to do this anymore. It smacks of dishonesty to me now, although it did not always. Of course, I can forget the past. Wipe it from my mind, condemn it the the dark places of history. And hope that no one ever finds it there. I no longer deliberately do this, either. Although I've forgotten large swaths of my past, I did not do so directly. Deliberately, maybe. Directly, no.

The one thing, gentle reader, that I can't do with the past, try as I might, is change it. Despite my best attempts, there it remains, staring back at me across the abyss of time. Grim, non? Some of you surely, feel no particular need to escape your past, and wonder why I should want to.

What if there was a way, Gentle Reader, to change the past? What if there was some power, the power of a good story, say, that could banish from the past all the ghosts that linger there, tethered by strange desires?

On the subject of ghosts:

On the day we moved in, the pings, bumps, and snaps
Were scary, it's true, but probably normal;
A house accepting new patterns of weight
With protest, the way no conviction goes gently.
We laughed a little, and called it "our spirit."

Later that night, when the power conked out
And the kids were crying, the ghost got a name,
"Daniel," and a history of whispered exploits,
All of them harmless, like nursery rhymes,
Or like the little fibs we tell ourselves
To explain why this or that has led to suffering.

Pretty soon, we were using him for everything.
When the Christmas tree fell, it was "Daniel";
When my wife lost her ring, it was "Daniel";
When the kids forgot to feed the goldfish
And it turned up dead, its eyes silvered over
Like water shadowed under sheets of ice,

Well, that became Daniel too, which was curious;
And pauses me now as I make the long walk
Down the hall to the bathroom in darkness,
And hear, in soft concert, the sound of my footfalls
Answered at once by my children's voices

Still calling to Daniel behind their door.

Daniel is not, of course, quite the same as the ghosts I made reference to earlier. Still, he seems to be an accurate portrayal, to me, of how these things work. They are convenient for a time, funny even, until all at once they are too real, and something shifts, in perception, or in reality, and you are faced with some painful realization. The father here sees in Daniel his own mortality, and further, the growing distance between himself and his children. Your ghosts might remind you of other things. But they are real, Gentle Reader, and maybe I'd better start thinking of an awfully good story to make them go away. I wonder if my Muse would want to help?

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