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How to Help a Ghost

Jul. 3, 2011
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Some days I leave the grocery store and walk
all the way to the door
of our old house without thinking. Even the strange
dog waiting at the window seems to recognize me
as I stop just short
of trying my key at the lock.

You were a thread of cobweb I breathed in and couldn’t
swallow, couldn’t cough up. All our boxed up letters
can’t fathom the indifference
of the garbage truck, hoisting
the cans like an aging bodybuilder.

Hell is a country where it rains year round
and you must spend all day writing postcards
to relatives you don’t love. “Today,” you write,
“it rained.”

And wasn’t it the rain that caught you
rushing between buildings, someone else’s jacket
on your back, face turned
away, as if to avoid a camera? I wasn’t

there to see it, but I imagine all the things
you never told me like a line of footprints
dried into the concrete.

My mistakes are throwing
bunches of roses at me, cheering
for an encore. So here is my aria: a dirt
road, seven beers, the headlights
off. Enough of this.

Some day, one of the dark shapes wandering
across the frozen lake will turn out
to be you. I can already hear you at the door
shaking the frost
off your boots.

Nick Lantz is the author of two books, We Don't Know We Don't Know and The Lightning That Strikes the Neighbors' House; a third collection, How to Dance When You Do Not Know How to Dance, is forthcoming from Graywolf Press in 2014. Lantz received an MFA from the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and has received fellowships from the Wisconsin Institute of Creative Writing and the Bread Loaf Writers' Conference. He has taught creative writing at UW-Madison, Gettysburg College, Tinker Mountain Writers' Workshop, and Queens University's Low-Residency MFA.


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