Mansfield, Ohio, Ghost Hour by Camille Ferguson
Down the gravel I walk with a light: I’m from the city now, but I know
how to weigh the calculated risk of both
mothflocks & frogs folding under barefeet.
At the front door, no clamoring voices, no fight or celebration, not
the bells which used to announce my drunken three am misarrivals.
Now, when grandma walks down from her place it’s because she thought
I was someone else.
Inside, there is no dad making an angry song of clattering dishes, willing
glass to shatter, no boy made of flight, no
beautiful brother stoned in the glow of fridgelight,
mining for satiation. I hope the ghosts we’re making
now are happier ones. Baby brother’s in Texas,
marching, ensuring me both that he is the same boy, &
of the importance of making your bed.
I bury my worst traits under a snapping turtle tongue: I discard skepticism,
tuck up my tendency towards disapproval,
because we’ve all found our own ways to leave.
Big brother, he’s a town over tripping over baby names,
worrying all the ways to ruin. He lives in a mirrored
apartment of the one our mother lost herself
in. I’m sure he sees her, still, across the hall: the thinnest
she’d ever been, collapsing inwards, curled over the milksmoke of my bong.
This is the house my dad grew up in, crawled back into when mom left
him, same house Grandpa lived in alone until he couldn’t, while Grandma lived
just next door. They ate dinners together but kept a distance
to keep from killing each other.
This is how I learned love, at the hands of people out of touch with it.
Here, the neon orange countertops probably in their final moments:
the last bones of my grandpa in this place, the color
my stepmother hates, unwilling to love
their tacky bright brilliance. Just let some light stay in here,
This is the tree I was always afraid to stand under: Grandma told me
larvae hatched & dropped into your hair, here. I think she loved to give me
reasons to look up, or, be fearful.
No hellfire of silkworms falls on me, but fog pools
near my ankles, product of warm ground, cool air. Here in the roots of the tree
I buried my imagination. I still see it shimmering:
fae floating in the ground’s clouds, casting spells in beds of moss.
They had purple hair & green lips & they were all the things
I wouldn’t dare be.
I walk out into the woods, not unaware of the ghosts behind me.
This, this is the pine place, the nook of needles Grandma took us & told us stories
in which we three slayed demons, in which we were born to serve her
god. Still, she goes out into the street to protest my being, & calls her religion
love. Here, June is a rotten month.
I remember when the house filled with gnats,
& Baby said, why are there so many f—s in this house? How hard
they laughed, & no one told him the word was bad, just that it didn’t mean
what he thought.
There, the powerlines: skeletal beats of electric & metal,
picking into the sky. & under them my burial
of potential cancers, the mound of half-finished cigarettes.
Out of it a house of ash. I step inside & it falls as I pull the door closed.
Here is where I buried anger, though never
all of it. I keep a peace under my tongue. It glows orange like an ember.
I float downtown: the neon buzzing in the bar where the best friend
I don’t recognize drinks piss beer every night, slumping at the bar
even when she’s supposed to be tending it.
Tell me, can you drink enough to forget
him, & the booze-blood in your father’s mean veins?
I do coke in the bar bathroom & I come out cocky, ready to miss
every time you try to meet my eyes & then as I’m leaving,
you touch my hand tender.
The only time I did coke with Big
he was supposed to never do it again. Baby drove us into the fields
on a side-by-side, promised honey-colored horses.
Under the pockeye of moonlight I watched him lift us up,
onto their backs, watched older brother get thrown down
off the back of the wildest. Little brother, sober, laughing,
while I panicked off my high, lest it take off mad, too.
Boy, I’ve seen you fall so many times & I’ll never not jump
Back inside the house which wasn’t ours, we iced his tailbone with frozen peas.
I think we’ve each drowned these woods enough
now they rain—
Each time I come home I think this can be good, & then I’m snorting
something, or driving past homes of people who were never forgiven,
like the job of forgiving isn’t mine to do.
Here’s the scream I left still: pierced, midair, electric & red like a flare. The ghosts
have all taken to their places. They look at me, open faces. They want to know
why I’m here.
Camille Ferguson is a queer poet from Ohio. Camille recently graduated from Cleveland State University where she received the Neal Chandler Creative Writing Enhancement Award. Her work is featured or forthcoming in Drunk Monkeys, Okay Donkey, Flypaper Lit, Zone 3 and Door Is A Jar, among others.