The Ghosts Down in North-of-the-South
People, the ghosts down in North-of-the-South aren’t see-through.
—Diane Seuss, Four-legged girl (Graywolf Press, 2015)
They don’t wear nightgowns or whisper or sing
or want hazy things from the ones of us who are living.
They have skins, bones, people. They’re short in stature
and they don’t walk through walls. They come in our houses
by kicking down the doors, wearing porkpie hats and smoking
those My Father cigars. Yellow sweat stains
on their sleeveless undershirts, my people. I’m sure
there are other kinds of ghosts other places,
sad angels wearing bloomers and fanning their wings,
but here their faces are made of gristle and their eyes
are red from too much Thunderbird. They want to steal
our valuables, mess shit up, drop a match and burn
down the house. I don’t know any other way to say it,
people. They walk right into our kitchens without being invited,
tracking mud, lifting the fish by the tail out of the fryer
and stuffing it in a cloth sack the color of a potato
just pulled from the ground, and if there was a potato
pulled fresh out of the ground they’d take that too.
Their pee sizzles when it hits the floor. They don’t hear
prayers or heed four-leaf clovers. We have to give
our bodies to the task. I mean, we push back, people.
Harder than day labor. Harder than shoving a bull
out of the cow paddock. Two bulls. We have to say
leave my goddamned house. Go, motherfucker.
My fucking house. Shouting while pushing, like breach birth,
or twins. They slap on that corpse-smelling aftershave
and come calling, holding a bouquet of weeds. They want
our whiskey, our gravy, our honey, our combs, our bees.