Thursday, October 7, 2010

Ghostwriting No. 20: A True Ghost Story

I am following a trail of
those wire-and-paper twists,
dropped every few yards
and bright against the asphalt.
No long, square plastic bags,
but still, I think of bread.
Who could eat so quickly?
Or make sandwiches while walking?
Was it all flung to the birds?

I wish I were a bird.
Not for the squabbling
that must have followed each slice.
To have been fed.

Then I see them, not many,
but all on the wire, heads bobbing,
and I think: they are full.
I could eat them. One bite, another.
Good breeding stops me.
City birds are covered in lice
probably diseased.
Vegetarians live longer!

There are no unlocked cars
with bags of chip crumbs

hidden in wheel wells,
no dumpsters with
telltale clouds of fruit flies.

The birds. They would be too hard
to catch, too small to satisfy.

One darts abruptly, dives,
snatches a red wire tie.
I look along the path, the scattered
green and blue and white scraps,
becoming invisible just yards away
because of the heat boiling
over patches of engine fluids.

The birds dropped the ties here.

No, worse.

A little old man, born in the Depression,

collected them for decades
but now knows, his pension gone and
medical bills looming, that wire twists
have no currency anymore,
and he is plucking them from
a coffee tin - its logo from the forties -
and wrapping a happy thought in each one,
then dropping each,
and when he gets to the doors
of the distant wholesale warehouse,
he will sit and hold the can
and hope no one spits in it
because he can't afford to let it rust.

All my dreams are like this now.
I don't go to a doctor; I read enough
to know what I'd be told;
clonazepam and maybe a vacation.
I'll tough it out.

But when I pull the brown bag

out of my briefcase
and reach for the loaf of bread
and a knife to spread some butter
and I'm ready,
the white twist-tie stops me.
What would he have put
in this one?
His daughter's first step,
a flawless tomato,
a wet cloth on his forehead,
the squeak of new shoes?

It's 8:43 already.
I've done the math: going 45
in a 35 doesn't actually make time.
I buckle in at the stoplight.
Coffee comes in bags now,

and even if it didn't,
what would I think to save?

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