On Fathers and Ghosts

I’ve been thinking about my dad lately.  Both of them: my father in-law who is gone, and my father who is recently divorced.  They occupy my thoughts the way ghosts occupy a house.  Sometimes I think I hear them in the kitchen or climbing the stairs to my room.  Sometimes I think they call my name from the doorway and I look up from my book or stop eating dinner and listen for my name again.  At night, at the bathroom sink before bed, I look in the mirror and see my dad’s face like a mask over mine.  The square jaw, the meaty nose.  The eyes like coins at the bottom of a well.  I even see a little of my father in-law.  His mouth was as broad as mine, his lips thick as thumbs.  I live with these ghosts, and more, every day.  They are the voices I listen to, the fathers that continue to raise me.

Photograph of my dad on the balcony of our hotel in Seaside Oregon. 10/24/2008

My Ghosts

My ghosts don’t know they are pacing.
They imitate clocks.
They climb the walls and hang
by their teeth.
They fill my socks with orange peels.
They throw my hat in the tub.
They lock themselves
in the bathroom
and try to slit their wrists
with my toothbrush.
Late at night I can hear them kicking the fridge,
punching the cupboards,
dumping the silverware onto the floor.
I listen to them moan and rant
their heavy feet thumping down the hallways.
In the early morning, before the fog
has finished lifting
I go downstairs to make coffee
and find my ghosts, restless as verbs
reaching for the phone
as if to call the nouns they have lost.

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