Welcome to the Ghost House (A Letter from the Editor)
So it begins. Welcome to our debut issue. As with many projects, Ghost House
Review, started off as an abstract potential that blossomed very quickly into a grand reality. From the very beginning I have been overwhelmed and overjoyed at the amount of positivity and excitement this little lit mag has coaxed forth from those who have stumbled across it. There is no better fuel than other people’s curious smiles and I owe many individuals a hearty Thank You. I know Ghost House Review is still a fledgling publication, and there are many details I want to add to this project in the future, but my main hope is a simple one. May the Ghost House become a mighty haven for work that aims to comfort, challenge, change, and inspire. Consider this issue the proverbial champagne-‐smash against our newly wetted hull. This is only the beginning to a wonderful voyage. I’m grateful for such an opportunity and I’m excited to explore new worlds. As an editor, I couldn’t ask for better company. As a reader, I can’t wait for more. Cheers to everyone who has helped me along the way. Your questions, high-‐fives, retweets, and poems have provided the steam needed to power forward. With high hopes and a brimming heart I invite you into the Ghost House.
Yours Kindly, Karolina Manko Founding Editor
Poem List Remembering Is a Frat Boy Early April The Apple Where Fires Never Burned Lessons in Nature’s Course Chore Missionary Elegy for the Aftermath Color – Color Untitled Orange Juice Lips Hurricane Sandy Conversations With my Mother in Waiting Rooms, 2013 Ahora Mismo Anyway… I Am the Sea Man Teaches Wolf Pup to Howl Stargazer Pause Reminder Trite But True Cuyahoga Falls Tunnels to Warm Places 1991 Walking Before/During/After Midnight Population Yes GMT-‐8 Hours Planning the Crone Harmonics I Try Not to Worry But The House Your Hickies Look Like Marilyn Monroe
Remembering is a Frat Boy Remembering has a fist with my name tattooed on its knuckles. He wants me to think I am too special to taste my own blood. Remembering pours me a glass from the sucker punch bowl despite my telling him I'm trying to quit. Remembering doesn't care. We gobble handfuls of Xanax like candy necklaces made of baby teeth, stir our drinks with the minute hands of broken clocks. Remembering wants to stay up all night with me until I hurt myself. Until the gut of a hangover makes me throw up an aunt's withered kidney, an uncle's hidden pantyhose, my mother's hollow head. Remembering holds my hair back even though I hardly have any. He asks if I recall an old lover telling me not to cut it, that I looked so beautiful before. I tell Remembering he looks just like him. Remembering gives me the bottle and shuts up for a while. I guess I fall asleep because I am alive in the morning and feel like well-‐rested hell. My father's Budweiser breath hangs in my mouth like a fresh eviction notice, so Remembering couldn't have gone far. He must be at the drugstore, buying Gatorade and aspirin and hairspray. He wants me to think he takes care of me. He wants me to look good in photographs.
Early April Main Street was an occluded artery on your birthday. I sucked down caffeine and a stranger asked me how to pronounce ischemic. I've studied the science of your going for years, but continue to poison myself like sirens in the city. Death is just a thing we do, like buying Christmas cards and dinner plates. This is why I never visit the dirt that thrives above you, only take the long way home through intersections that have worn the most extravagant collisions. I read once that it takes twenty minutes for our eyes to adjust to complete darkness: as long as it takes for the sun to set most nights in spring, as cemetery mud ripens itself into new holes. It is the heaviest anvil to be diagnosed with a new day each morning, but at least tonight when I say blowing the candles out, everyone will think I mean your birthday.
The Apple For Michelle This was the camp rule: At the culmination of the hike, you said, That was when you were allowed to eat The only provided and permitted sustenance -‐-‐ One solitary apple. We were regaling one another With our childhood stories, Our adult bodies Planted on the top floor of your dorm, Your lithe legs Branched between mine. I balked. Weren’t you hungry? Weren’t you starved? How long was the hike? Days after your story, I pass the fruit carts, Manhattan curbed, Relishing, tenderly, the rows of green and red The same way I relish the memory Of lifting the back of your dress Like a young boy opens an artistic book of nudes Because he prefers the beauty of suggestion To the fluorescence of playboy— Why not keep what’s sacred, secret? I want to find all your places Like children find rocks in soil, Or collect twigs on long hikes. With hungry ecstasy, almost rude, Impatient gratitude: like when the dress was lifted, And I discovered you were wearing a thong, The thought of your dress Sticking to the skin beneath your thigh In the sugared humidity, The salt of the skin, summer seasoning The green crisp of you Between my teeth…– Oh I, I could eat one hundred apples.
Sarah M. Duncan
Where fires never burned some of us learn the right words too late we are suited for that which isn’t volition our stomachs are empty fire pits where fires never burned our instincts have long ago slithered away from us in shame we will hold everyone else’s voice above our own we will never sit beside ourselves, with ourselves we are as comfortable in the fall foliage of the forest as we are leaning against crusted crumbling subway walls one within or without are one and the same and when we glimpse our homunculus, we wave to him as if waving to a stranger in the strange fog of a cocktail party, where we are all packed close together, and cloying and cloistering for an exit to cling to in the dark some of us learn our words too late and when our problems end (us) we will find we are buried where we began, alone, and apart from ourselves we might welcome the gentle lullaby of a slipping mind, and the faint touch of an empty limb, then we confront and converse with ourselves, for the very first and last moment
Lessons In Nature’s Course I. We found her near the shore, mosquitoes chewing at our necks, her insides spilled over her bones, fur spread through the grass. Go home was all my father said to me. The dog that swam behind his boat until he pulled her aboard, his sweet girl. By flashlight, he shoveled her into a bag and buried her in the banks. I was asleep when he returned home. The tarp covered the boat all summer. II. Convulsing in a current of blood at the mouth of the driveway, head pushed through its teeth, a soft rain pulling the whole animal into its chest, I kill the engine and tear the coon’s tuft from the tread of the tires. My mother carries the spade from the garage, together we dig. After striking tree roots and limestone, we catch our breath over the third and final grave. We’d be awful murderers she says.
The garage floor dusts his own shadow across his back. He lies beneath the Chevy belly’s drip, supper cold on the dining room table. My father almighty, oil change alchemist of black thumb, the 2x4 bulk buyer, the hold his chest in the living room because the doctor doesn’t know what causes it, but he knows he has no time for it messiah. The closet needs a new bulb, the roof a row of shingles, the vent hums too heavy, like his heart beats too heavy. I watch him sweat from the house, and wonder how burden can be measured in pounds.
Missionary I watch the dark skinned woman who I imagine was cocooned in Port-‐Au-‐Prince summers lean against a gold Lexus, fingering a matching rosary. She asks if I go to church, her accent thick as a flock of mourning doves. I laugh. My jaw loose from a work week's kiss goodbye says No. She wants to know why and a punch line ends every excuse I make to not seem like a holy roller. When I tell her there aren’t enough hours in the day, she comes close, whispers My son, you mustn’t say things like that. It sounds like a secret I don't want to fish warning out of. I leave before the silence, the speech, the quotes well versed in how muscles feel after unanswered prayers. I already know what happens to penance when the body turns itself into a confessional. When God becomes a fist in your chest opening.
Elegy for the Aftermath For Haiti
In the remains of Port-‐Au-‐Prince, there is a girl with an extension of a smile, a wound fissured across her cheek, a face caked with the debris of her home. This is how to wear makeup in the third world. Every day, she watches men on TV who expect her to define natural disaster through a cavern full of blood. Somewhere,
my sister and I are discussing language, how the Creole on my tongue tires of flopping. We count the scales of dried words and I try to explain why I like Hip Hop more than songs of ancestors. We think of all the relatives who found graves under crumbled buildings. The night-‐ terrored ghost my grandfather’s become. The rubble of an island nation resting in the valleys of his wrinkled skin. When Pat Robertson said the Haitians deserved to have their homes destroyed. That when we were young, we danced with-‐ the devil and death was our punishment. All my friends were outraged, but I laughed, won-‐ dered if Pat had ever learned anything from his father. It is hard to hate the devil when he’s taught you how to fish. Before the earth's backbone shivered, the Caribbean was a pot, bubbling water. The people, hemlock. No one asked to be born with poverty wet on their skin. Like no one asks to be born choking on golden spoons. For those without extensions of smiles, I understand the alchemy of your criticism. But for men serving up their perceptions of disaster on the first world’s plate, prior to making your meal, consider the catch. Why it stares at you like a child. Know that at some point we choose to be more net or hook. So forgive the steel finger curled in her jaw. There was metal in her mouth long before she could speak.
Color-‐Color Grandma uses brown-‐black. Painting her brown-‐blonde lids, Outlining places where color-‐color used to be. For me, blackest black. Dark flesh-‐paint like wet jetties, Marks left on pillows and seashores. She asked me once, "Does it ever come off?" An eye roll for a response, A wet face leaving love-‐marks on white towels Untitled You said when worn you couldn't die. A felt square standing between you and eternal damnation. An image of Mary sheathed in a small plastic pocket, Sitting somewhere around your stomach and your sacred heart. Life exists like the centimeters between rosary beads. Gaps of rope and space tie prayers together, Pieces of loose thread culminate in a cross. I took your baby blues, Kept the beads as my own. Tracing fractures of broken plastic and repeated prayers— Lines of Hail Marys like meaningless morse code.
Jamie Hunyor Orange Juice Lips spring has blossomed ashtrays full of half-‐smoked cigarettes. i am blooming into my own man but i am lying occasionally b/c loneliness is eating away at my truth-‐telling. i feel a longing for summer along w/ the longing for a lover. these rolled paper bones are ripening in the hope of perpetual sunshine & it’s been quite some since i’ve held another’s gaze for too many minutes at a time. i want someone to lay on my over-‐ sized mattress like so many orange peels, kissing the juice from my lips & coaxing me outside.
Hurricane Sandy i’m out of bret easton ellis novels to read & i lent my dad my copy of delillo’s LIBRA for his two-‐ week trip to Jersey to fix their electricity in the middle of a hurricane “something that isn’t too deep,” he said, asking to borrow a book from my collection this is the man who never wanted to go to the Big City & now he’s across the flooding
Hudson from the emptiness that Sandy left “not too deep…” i whispered to the floodwaters.
SaraEve Daly Conversations with my Mother in Waiting Rooms, 2013 On the way to the oncologist, she confesses she just wants to give up already. Silently I become the selfish one for hating the drug that I am losing my family to one form at a time, for hating the drug that has broken her down from heavy-‐footed panic inducing childhood terror to the shuffling stooped wreckage she is now. I am the selfish one who won’t let her go. We poets don’t get to kill our parents; ask Plath, ask Sexton, ask Olds. We just clean up the aftermath. Now, all she ever talks about are the good days and bad days. Pain on a scale from one to ten. My mother is a fifty year old woman trapped in a crumbling sand castle of a body. On the car ride home, she tells me she does not want to live anymore. I don’t respond, let her think I’ve been stunned into silence. Truth is, there is a certain grace in accepting the inevitable.
Amanda Everich Ahora Mismo It mattered to me for so long, if I remembered, who was right, if he knew, when it happened, how our teeth gave way to suck and blow this control, it mattered to me for so long. Anyway… I know that it will hurt, until it doesn't. You will remember the smell, until it whiffs by leaving you to realize you've already forgotten it. The jokes will come And no, they won't be there to listen. The urge to reach out will consume you, until it won't Because they aren't there, But you survived, anyway.
Elizabeth Tompkins I Am The Sea I am the sea, lying in wait as warships pass across my back. I arch my spine, a provocateur. I am the boy in the shrouds, clinging to slippery knots in the rope, regarded by the evanescent moon, ripe in the night-‐tree sky. I hear the sound of cannon, I feel the iron fire lacing up my leg and I am the one who falls into the crimson water. The jib snaps like a horse’s mane in a gust of wind. The lad who sits with his back propped against the ship’s bulwarks is thinking of his love back home, where only the roses are red.
Man Teaches Orphaned Wolf Pup to Howl http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5T-‐ZThSE5rQ Brother, see how we are born of different blood. See the difference in our coats, the way yours swirls thick – sable bristles of stiff night, and mine – smooth as snowfall. Ivory. Bone. How the light disappears into you, hides beneath your rippling shoulders. How that same light shines off of my skin, reflects every star back to me, turns the paleness of my wrists to full moon. Brother, hear how we learned to speak in separate tongues. Hear the cadence of my breath, its slow quiet calm. Brother, for too long I have chewed on the fat and gristle of my father’s demands. I have seen him dressed in pelt, your mother’s blood still flecked on his blade. Brother, I am not my father. I will not learn to see your neck only in scope or crosshair, I will not reduce you to meat. Watch, brother, as I lift my head, turn my throat open, point mouth to sky. Follow me, brother. Pull your lips to snarl against bared teeth. I will teach you every muse I have known. I will teach you to sing.
You only seem small now. Everything around you towers above your head, and time moves at the speed of glaciers, but believe me, you will grow. The days will become weeks, turn into months, transform magically into years and you will grow – fed on the love in your mother's lullaby kiss and the labor in your father's arms, you will grow from the frailty of a newborn child to a sapling fighting for sunlight in the endless canopy of ancient forest. The only thing you have to fear is monsters, and they themselves are afraid of light. Swallow fireflies whole. Let them live in your throat, breathe with your mouth always open. They will illuminate every shadowed corner until nothing is left that can hide. Believe in kindness. The world is strange, but often gentle. Every breeze that rustles through the leaves of your fingers brings with it a set of blueprints for your future home. Draw a foundation in the mud with a branch from your favorite tree, build walls from portraits of everyone you love. Sketch them in crayon. Do not build a roof. Do not ever build a roof.
Pause At the end of the song there is a small draw of breath. Small but noticeable. And that’s what it takes from time to time. Shaking the rust off the lungs. A car drives by and what’s left of the rain flies like nickels. The fountain has been left behind, dirty. The heart hides behind both wrists. The blood is blue until it’s seen. The thunder wishes it were this clean. The thunder rusts as loud as it possibly can. And that’s what it takes from time to time. Another song starts. The air is pushed back into the room so fast, it isn’t even noticed.
Reminder You are listening to the ghosts of wolves singing on the roof, only listening to the singing. When it rains, it sounds like somebody broke the glass of the night’s teeth, it sounds like the release of a clenched jaw. You said this was how summer starts. A howl. A break. A hammer. A petal of a ghost. A wolf of a song. You are on the roof. Your fingers are folded. The moon looks good enough for breaking. A gorgeous breaking.
You don’t say this. Your hands are not folded. Your hands are open. The wolves haven’t arrived yet. Their ghosts haven’t broken yet. You are listening to me. I am off the roof. I am in the sky. There is fur in my throat. There is moon in my fur. There is wolf in my hands. I said this. I said there was listening. I said there were hands. I said there were songs to be held. We are only holding the listening.
Charles Ray Hastings Jr. Trite But True I was going to write you a love poem but I realized the control room to that part of my emotions is smashed to shit, wires cut and stripped, walls tagged with cross expectations was going to talk to you but the bathroom where I flush bad ideas is filled with foul timber from yester-‐year and ole fuckable lover de-‐fanged my tongue de-‐veined the cockles of my heart was so close to telling you how lovely you looked in that dress, round love tumbling down to quilted thighs. you were subtle and silent in how your body rested I guess I’m saying it all now while I can before the softness spreads to my knuckles and the punch turns to a prick I’ll bow out eyes on yours till I pass beneath the doorway
Mason Shreve Cuyahoga Falls Emma scrapes a broken piece of scratched glass across my ribcage black flowers grow in her bloody hands and turn into spiders so many spiders
Tunnels to warm places there is a dead bird on the sidewalk there are children poking it with a stick wearing their little masks like beasts they look like lightning like a soft eyelash that lingers on a lover’s bare shoulder i. The bird’s wings are still unfurled. ii. Its ghost is already flying away.
Amandine 1991 Voluptuous bottom, thighs, hips o p e n. Eyes at which sand reflects, glisten. Honey almond. A boat in the yard, May 23rd 1991. Translucent skin, vomit on your sheets... Look at me through glass, 3 lbs 7 ounces. Is that my baby? “Up shits creek" Paddle out of the wood, boat in yard, body in water. A dive in the womb 2:45 A.M. Bonneau Beach. Canned ravioli, hallelujah, God Bless America.
A flower that wilts on prepubescent skin. Helen-‐Francis Bragg, Santa Claus 1995. Black mothers hand in the hair. The way ears become one, a perfect part. Genuine, R-‐Kelly, Sisqo, Ass in cut offs “cheeky" Let me see that thong. [Perché hai touch me vi] Switch-‐cane, sugar cane, whatever. Kelly Bragg Eutawville, St. Stephens, Cross, Ridge-‐ville, Alabama, Lauryn Hill, Red rice, jambalaya, molasses, back of the bus! Heavy bodies on small landscapes, (at dusk) dried plato in my sisters mouth. Frequent visitation, fluorescent lights, face in shadow, lunchtime side of mashed potatoes. Sandy? Sandra? Who gives a fuck. Oranges at sunrise, “You look french" There is no eloquence in language that speaks to me of 1991. A seed that grows in dry land.
Rob (Ratpack Slim) Sturma
Walking Before/During/After Midnight We are not drivers. We are not driver-‐less cars. We are hitchhikers and we stumble over rocks near the curb. We have no idea how the hell we’re going to get from Point A to Point B. So we make maps. We look up the shortest route; we sync our watches before we lace up and get to stepping. Our shoes wear down quickly. Our shoes are battle transports. Our laps are porch swings. We are the vagabond hearts. We are hobos. Emotional bums. We have panhandled for affection before. But we are human. We are skinned knee and whiskey blind. Our best intentions sometimes slip out of our fingerless gloves. This is the part where we hop on that train and let the romance of the Old West carry us to safety. We are loyal passengers. We have exceptional navigational skills. We brought the best mix tapes for the journey. I was hoping you liked the Decemberists. I was hoping you were all ukulele and drum brushes. I was waiting to invite you to my porch swing. Waiting for Bloody Marys and blender drinks. Waiting for hot toddies before bedtime. But the wait is nearly over. The bus will pull up soon. We are fixtures at this bus stop. The loyal passengers. The not-‐drivers. We take longer to get there. It is always worth it.
Rob (Ratpack Slim) Sturma
Population Yes Before there was a spine riding into battle bearing your flag, you didn’t even know you were a country. Now your limbs are holding elections. The carpals and the tarsals are forming opposing political parties. This is why you can’t dance. Your country needs an anthem. Something with cymbals. Something with cowbell. This anthem should sound like robots slapboxing. It needs to match the rattle in your hips. Maybe instead of a national anthem, we should hire a squad of cheerleaders for you and maybe Ghostface Killah, because this needs to get your people rallied up— and who can feel bad when Ghostface and the Laker Girls are singing their praises? You’re just that happening of a destination. Your tourist attractions are distracting but not gaudy. State of the Union: There will be blood. You will have cannonball days that will careen into bomb crater nights. There will be days when you feel untilled. This is when you will find the one who will turn over your soil. Keep this perfect farmer close. Subsidize the hell out of them. There are so many other things I could tell you: What to do during your inevitable civil war, how to handle walking into the room wearing the same dress as another country, the pros and cons of terraforming. You have always been of this world-‐-‐ and the reason you haven’t floated away, even when you wanted to? We the oceans have been holding you all along.
GMT -‐8 Hours The rain fell warmer than this when you were a secret I kept. I only brought you out if the moon was in hiding; I waited for midnight to drink you down with cheap rosé wine, then unclipped you from the washing line. well. you always said you liked the way towels felt after a day drying in the sun: stiff, scratchy, difficult to wrap around your body; one part of you I loved.
Planning the Crone Eventually the day arrives when the lines on my face lead me away from my adopted city; I leave England behind to float over roads and rivers, forests, land in Eryri, where I live alone, scratching long memories up the sides of mountains: barddoniaet of rocks. When I travel to the sea, my hands and feet listen to the foam, the sand. There I see lifeguards rescuing a dying language in the distance, and ask to join them. We breathe into the mouths of verbs, pump the chests of nouns. We pull whole sentences out of the waves. Sometimes I build new fairytales from ballads overheard from singing sunsets, Taliesin-‐blessed. I am practising solitude. When death comes, I welcome him, smiling. Well-‐rehearsed, I become the earth in a place where the dirt still breathes the molecules of my ancestors.
harmonics the quivering distance between two trees and a river is equivalent to the way two bodies can never really touch, scientifically. there is always some sort of division between them-‐ a gap in molecular air, an unnerving magnetic force, a $40 bus ride or the price of gas. A stretch of rural valley. but I’d like to think our bodies have extended like pieces of red yarn woven through molecular spaces forming one big transatlantic kiss.
i try not to worry but outside it’s dark at 10 am and i’m in here thinking of dirt roadsand the old truck I want to be picked up by when I cross America I think of the unlimited freedom that comes with loose ends the way you make my chest feel heavy and sometimes my eyelids drop I watch her hands move to the sound of water thin and white bird bones on a platter
The House Ancient house at night-‐time settles, Stairs a-‐creaking, groaning walls, Wooden beamed damp cobwebbed attic, Joists in sound as darkness falls. Family on cotton pillows, Tucked up warm and soon to sleep Know the noises of the building Do not hear the things, which creep From the stones and from the woodwork, From the books on dusty shelves, Wandering through the slumb'rers bedrooms, Free to hover, free to delve Through the house to gaze at sleepers Fast asleep and feeling safe, For the lulling house's noises Mask their visits from the grave. What if waking one might open Eyes that flickering movement see? Easily explained as simply Imagination running free. For the guests all uninvited and with speed beyond compare Disappear when living creatures May discover ghouls go there. So sleep you safely in contentment, Lost in dreams and warm as toast; They surround you and engulf you, But will not harm you, gentle hosts.
Your Hickies Look like Marilyn Monroe The bruises on my chest this morning, I do not know where they came from but they did not remain unnoticed. They are secrets and picture books, written in night ink on crumpled damp sheets. In the morning smeared across bodies, we do not remember the stories except as white noise and dreams. There is a darkness in my wrists; I cannot turn my hands out to receive love, breaking.
Acknowledgments Founding Editor: Karolina Manko
Head Designer: Victoria Fuks Supporting Designers: Michelle Wilson & Chris Wilson Cover Photo: Russell Peborde
Ghost House Review would like to thank the following people for their support, warmth, eagerness, and morale-‐boosting kindness:
Wieslawa Lamarz Victoria Fuks Olivia Fuks Joanna Olszewska Elizabeth Tompkins Laura Dragonette Russell Peborde
Lastly, thank you to everyone who submitted work for consideration. Your courage and willingness to participate did not go unnoticed. Without you, none of this would have been possible.
Issue 1 - Volume 1