Back into the Living (Again)

BY Crystal S. Gibbins

           after Ben Westlie's "And there are Ghosts"

At night you can hear
                    them, whispering
                              about when they were alive,
when it was them sleeping
                              in your small room
          you now lie down in, 
                                        shut your eyes in, 
depart from the real to the dream world in
                    just for a few hours. 
Sometimes they sound angry—
                    a dull thud and clunk
                              of the furnace fires into life, 
pipes shout words, each syllable wrapping
                    around your bones like new muscle.
And why shouldn’t they display such bitterness? 
                                        You are the body, 
                    the life, you get to still feel, 
                              you have the time they envy. 
You are too scared to walk
                    across the floor to switch on
                                        the light. You hold
     tighter to the warmth—
                              the blanket
                                        —that is your shield. 
                    Silently you call for the rhythm of water, 
the ocean with its thousand bodies
                              singing and dancing, 
          to seduce you into sleep, but you can’t
                              help but hear
     scraping sounds on the porch, 
                    which you tell yourself is just small
animals from the woods, you can’t help
                              but hear footsteps
                                        outside your bedroom door, 
          which you tell yourself is the freezer’s
                                        thrum and shiver, 
                              you can’t help but hear breathing, 
which you tell yourself is just air
                    finding the cracks in the window
                              frame, and you hope
                    they do not glide
through and enter.


Crystal S. Gibbins is pursuing her PhD in poetry at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she also serves on the editorial staff for Prairie Schooner. Her work has appeared in dislocate, Free Verse, Canary, Literary Bohemian, Yellow Medicine Review, among others.