Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Poem366: “the ghost comes with me” by Letitia Trent

the ghost comes with me by Letitia Trent

the ghost comes with me by Letitia Trent, Syracuse, New York: Ghost City Press, 2019

So I’m sitting here in the half-dark of a cold evening in the Ozarks, and I’m reading poems about … what’s this? Ghosts in the Ozarks. This is a rare place — the wind, the weather, distinctive; the light pinning you in place like a moth.

It’s in this just-rightness that I encounter Letitia Trent through her chapbook the ghost comes with me, and I have to say, it’s an impressive book. It’s composed of a single poem in eleven parts, and all have something to do with ghosts or the other world.

Trent establishes her uneasy motif in the first numbered section, where she describes ghosts as “genderless / dead, but present.” Though it has left the body,

      … you are still
here, ceaselessly
moving and confusing
the smoke alarms
the silken curtains
the good, small dogs
the cat on the mantel
the television signal

What I get from this is the pervasiveness of the ghost — how it leaves its clammy mark on everything.

When Trent talks about ghosts, it’s clear she’s a believer; her bio explains that she lives in a haunted town, and she writes about hauntings as if they are facts. I like that she isn’t being artful, or at least not merely artful, when she invokes ghosts. This probably gives her a great deal of credibility with some readers. It does with me.

However, I don’t think Trent’s ghosts are necessarily spirits of departed humans. I suspect some of her ghosts are actually old hopes, or maybe regrets. But they resonate the same way, like a current in the floorboard that finds its way up your spine.

The ghost motif is sustained throughout the book, sometimes with a twist, wherein the speaker herself becomes a ghost to her son:

    when I’m dead maybe
my son will suddenly remember
the importance of roses, the smell of sandalwood,
maybe he’ll need to sit on the ground
sometimes because he know
that’s where I am.

I’m intrigued with a character who seems to daydream as she makes plans for her own future haunting.

It is deeply satisfying to read poems that demonstrate an almost supernatural vision—second sight into the after world. But such moments present themselves again and again in this impressive collection.

I am especially smitten with the fourth section, where the speaker muses on the nature of ghosts:

Maybe ghosts are the dead left in the places where they lived or died, attached to the world as we’re attached when alive, loving a particular place but never able to touch it fully, loving people who they can watch from a distance but never feel with their bodies or breath.

There’s this belief that the body and the real self are made of different stuff and one can slip off the other like a stocking from a pointed foot.

That image with its exquisite detail—stocking, pointed foot—is indicative of the power of the pictures Trent paints throughout this collection. It’s a lush and satisfying read.

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