Chasing Ghosts in Charleston
Across cobblestones too notched
and pebbled for meandering,
the tour guide gives us the reason why
there are so many lost souls here.
Tragedy, he says.
His mouth forms the word
the way fever and high water
divide the spirit, sudden and startled
from it’s bones, leaving it to wander
and hold to grief like a stillborn baby,
or the limpets encrusting ancient seawalls.
There is music in the air and the cadence
of lit windows down every storied block.
The clattering of glass and silver and footsteps
stirs the dead air from the corners like a chime.
Tourists still lose earrings while trekking
through the old jail and take pictures in graveyards
at night, hoping for a smudge beyond
the camera lens to manifest into the ghosts
of squandered fortunes and consumption,
lovers lost when the mouths of cannons
were still rimmed in smoke and gunpowder.
We pass a crypt that suffocated a child
awakened from a coma
and headstones jostled by earthquakes.
There is a bed that was buried whole
with the woman who died in it.
Four carved posts still spire from the grave
because no one had wanted to touch
what they could not define.
And another soul was left to rise
from beneath her sheets,
and remember, and remember, and remember,
as if longing were a state of eternal limbo,
beneath the sway of gray moss in trees.