- Ghosts, and: Galaxies
On one side, plastic, letting off its mock flamebeneath the green tiles—the other side, coal,that champion of authenticity,turning to ash, seething at its pretender.A pint of Black, the seasonal porter,supped in solitude amongst the faunaand the old men in their blue denim.The days are colder now, but nothing has changed—the heat and humidity have come and gonethree times over, but the air is still awash with indecision,tugs to be reckoned with, gentle stirsthat shift your focus—what the fuck were you thinking?You’d be a fool not to believe in ghosts—they are everywhere, even here,leaning against the rosewood timber,ordering fish and chips, deciding on a beer,something light—not that vegan shit—settling in for a game of Rummikub.Deep voices rattle from every corner, watches raised;Wednesday will be starting soon—better get a move on, head for the tram—The plan is to go there in a fortnight,gorge on pies and pretend we’re Ultras—there’s been bids on eBay—need the retro look—collective mimicry, it seems childish,but it keeps the ghosts at bay, over at the bar,locked beyond the screen.But the porter is draining, and outside, [End Page 127] the cold wraps around you like phantom arms,and you stir again, drifting along the cobbles,oblivious to the sound of steel strings and jackhammers.
We watched from the mezzanine,the gathered crowds, lighting fireworks,bellowing their goodbyes with acronymsand capitals—a long road, love and hate.We bore witness the end of our own world,the pixelated dragons and glitched armor,the empty houses, alcoves laden with trophies.We looked up from the fading sand—other worlds where others gatheredbeneath iron horses and green pyramids.Some sat beneath towering trees, or alone,in swamps, in snow, in ash and fire.We counted together—farewells, a brief message,and then, in a flicker, it was gone.The all-nighters as hopeless undergrads,the itch while backpacking in summer,the gentle rise of the welcoming refrain—I hear it still, on quiet nights, when screens are dark.There was a day I stood in that place that shouldn’t exist—I walked, out beyond the sandstone walls,out beyond the desert steppes—it was still there, deep within the valley of bones,as if untouched by greed it stood, clear and bright.I sat before the doorway, and looked upon the empty tracts.Will you return? I promise.Those were the last words we spoke. [End Page 128]
James O’Sullivan has been published in some of Ireland’s most prestigious literary journals and anthologies, including the SHOp, Southword, Cyphers, Crannóg, and Revival. Among other honors are third-place in the Gregory O’Donoghue International Poetry Prize 2016 and commendations in both the Munster Literature Centre’s Fool for Poetry 2014 International Chapbook Competition and the Charles Macklin Poetry Prize 2013. He has twice been shortlisted for the Fish Poetry Prize, as well as the Fish Short Story Prize 2014/15. His third collection of poetry, Courting Katie, is forthcoming from Salmon Poetry. James, who is a lecturer at University College Cork, Ireland, is the Founding Editor of New Binary Press. Visit www.josullivan.org.