by Michael Brett

Ghosts used to be everywhere:

When I was a boy, ghosts kept bursting through newspapers
Like broken pipes below streets, or the Lost Rivers of London:
Phantom aircraft took off-never to return- from derelict aerodromes
From runways filled with grass and potholes;

Blitz dead played billiards in boarded up pubs.

Someone knew someone knew someone,
Who knew this for a fact. They had seen it.

Sailors walked down Liverpool streets then vanished
At vanished front doors, vanished docks and even
Roman Legionaries marched waist deep through a City cellar,
Reflecting-an expert said-the rise of London earth since Roman times;

And, once, a bus with no driver and no passengers-
And wartime blackout headlights
Was seen in the Mile End Road.

These were Cockney, Brummie and Liverpudlian ghosts.
But we are filled with regret without warnings,
As most regrets come without warning.

Roman and Tudor ghosts warned you.

They were probably titled and knew the king.
They warned you at midnight-always-
Of unchangeable futures and,
Perhaps out of politeness,
Handed you news of your impending death
Like a golden party invitation.

But modern ghosts are untitled
And filled with sadness not invitations,
Like the one that knocked on Sassoon's window,
Puzzled that he was not in the trenches
Reminding him to return.

Modern ghosts are often puzzled, sometimes lost.
They visit supermarkets-not palaces- that were once barracks or aerodromes;

They are scruffy: wear old uniforms or clothes
Like those who need to live in special homes or asylums;

And if ghosts exist, then being a ghost must be like being senile:
Not knowing where you are or who these people are
And being filled with sorrow for the loss
Of things you can't remember.

Copyright © 2013 - Michael Brett
Published: 8/22/13   ·  Author's Page   ·  Next Poem