Ghost Story

We had come out of the ghetto to sit
in the heaven of a Thai restaurant
           just once
        at the edge of the gunfire
Little canal decorations on the table lit up
The waitress had red tassel earrings like a goddess
It must have been Christmas       or something like
We were young for nearly eighty
We had glass noodles, existentialist soup
Halfway through our meal, a young man came bleeding through the door
and shot us all to death
Now the restaurant is gone these many years
It’s a car dealership that we haunt
You can hear our tongues      wagging romance
sometimes,     still,      nearly eighty years old
in the tongues       of the little tinsel metallic flags
used to sell cars

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The Old Man Who Lived Along Swatara Creek

He lived in a tarpaper shack
and the ducks would come up
from the creek and quack around it.
Sometimes, the water would come up
and lie all around the tiny hovel.
He was not “desperately poor.”
He was well beyond that, into nature.
He was nature.
He had no visible means of support
but the air, but mercy
of a large vegetable garden.
Yet he did not take the ducks’ eggs.
He did not steal their children
as his distant siblings would advise him.
They would not visit
that horrible, sometimes-floating shack.
They would send him Christmas cards
urging him to steal duck eggs
to survive. They would sometimes
tape a quarter to the forehead
of the baby Jesus inside the card
for good luck.

The Cat Left Behind after the Squatters Were Chased Out

I am just an unlonely cat.
I am a loner but I am a tiger.
My family has left me this house.
It’s falling down, so I sleep on the roof.
The grass and trees are closing in,
so things will be shaded, greener soon.
Being a cat, I like that. (It’s summertime.)
The house was condemned, my family
driven out. They left me behind.
There’s some paper taped to the door
I cannot read. Sometimes I sit and look at it.
Sometimes I go through the busted window
and look for them. I cannot bring myself
to move my little Gore-Tex mouse from where
the kid last threw it. They were very poor,
so I took them in. Now they are poorer
without this house. Without me.
I am unlonely and rich.
I am a cat. The streets and the woods
are my palace, my house. They may
come back. They may not. You see,
I am a cat. I am out nothing.