Back to Issue Eighteen.

ghost stories



After too many drinks
I draw a tarot card

to see you clearly—
The Moon: light that’s safe

to stare at, knowing
its source, which is not you,

but your image. Last night,
I dreamt my therapist

would not speak to me.
We were at a party,

eating meat. She wiped
her hands and walked

to the window
where the raw light

swallowed her up.
Then, another dream:

you, demanding sex,
but only if another

man would join us.
Desire, you explained,

is like a see-saw, and
we were on the same side,

my back against your chest.
This morning, I believed

I heard a voice in the hall—
the low, satisfied tone of

someone who has just
fucked and woken to return

to his own life. Only
absence is real to me now:

the swift astringency of spirits.
This summer, I watched

my grandmother die.
Her lips were dark purple,

a new shade of lipstick
my aunt had applied.

She sat upright in bed,
apologized for looking

behind me, but, she explained,
she couldn’t help but see

anonymous shadows pass.
I told her I understood.

From the kitchen, the smell
of green beans in butter,

my aunt turning the faucet
on then off. A week later,

I wrote to you, told you
she was gone. You wrote

back, asking for my mothers’
address so you could send her

your condolences. I let you have it.
I almost wrote something else

but didn’t.


no more poems



For years, each poem I wrote
was a letter to a man that had fucked me
over. Oh, all those boys, now they are
little dominos and my finger is posed
next to their shiny upright bodies
in a gesture of threat. Like some sort
of storybook god, whatever I touch
rinses itself of sadness: knife, sheets,
alarm. I want to say there is a stretch
of flesh that trails behind each word
but that is not quite right. No, the sun
is only the sun, wallowing in its mess
of light. I want to say everything
around me is caught in a posture
of departure: water from the faucet,
brightness from the bulb, an automated
voice from the receiver telling me
my bill is overdue—even the rain
relishes its abandonment from the sky.
I have tried to speak and I have tried
again but am only a drunken eulogist,
my thoughts calling to themselves
through wet concrete. And finally
I can see the little staples of grief
that hold things together, the way they
shiver and shift as a siren collapses
into the dark, an emergency I mistake
for my own. Tonight, the city is a
symphony of cement, a pot of sugar
boiled to a hard crack, and I can’t help
but think of all my old lovers, how
they are asleep on the West Coast, each
of their bodies a sealed envelope
I can only hold up to the light.


after the break



My new body:
a path between hedges,

a riot of glass.

Have I hurt you?

I drew your face
and erased it.

We say forget.
We say as if

as if metaphor
could protect us.

Last night
you died

in my dream—

I put my hand
in your hair.

The small round stones
were not small round stones.

I remember
a feeling of blue sparks.

We got tired
of the sparks.

I know now
any wild chance

would have come apart.

Patrick Dundon is currently an MFA candidate at Syracuse University, where he serves as editor-in-chief for Salt Hill. His poems have appeared or are forthcoming in Sixth Finch, Birdfeast, DIAGRAM, Word RiotPoor Claudia, and elsewhere.

< Previous (Matt Miller)

Next (Katie Condon) >