Newly licensed we drove those kids
not yet allowed to drive
out to the antebellium house
old man Greenleaf had
deserted off the main road.
Greenleaf had fallen on hard times and,
rumor had it,
had even taken to burning for firewood
a whole wing of
his larger decaying mansion downtown.
In the creaky darkness we
initiated our charges. One of us
would bang a door stealthily
and another would slip away
by a back passage to
From an upstairs room. We watched
other guys laugh
to mask their fear. It was better than
Frankenstein at the drive-in.
Last week, in another ghost house
twelve miles away
the father of one of those boys did not
know me, as he gobbled
in one mouthful two pieces of cake, an apple,
and a banana.
Twice a week his keepers find him
in the woods wandering aimlessly.
But he does not recognize his own son.
Once this man carved
stone angels to mark the exit for others.
His son has had to sell
the family memorial business
to pay the nurses.
In another room, a noisier haint
beckoned from her lunch,
rattling a spoon on her tray
to assure that this visitor
would stop to observe her
laughing and shaking mindlessly
in her wheelchair before the pretty nurse.
Forty years ago, she whose shadow
now sits and rattles, gave me
my first phonograph record,
"Don't Sit Under the Apple Tree
with Anyone Else But Me,"
and the flip side,
"Johnny Got a Zero Today."
In the scariest room, down one hundred pounds
to only ninety-three,
my father took three minutes to pull himself
to the rail of his bed.
"Son, I can't commit suicide,
and it seems I can't die naturally,
though I have tried for months.
The pain is deeper now.
Please understand. Pray
that I die before morning.
I love you."
Don't tell me that ghosts don't exist.
I have been to the ghost houses.
I have seen the ghosts.
Copyright 1997, Louie Crew
Louie Crew professes English at Rutgers. He has written three volumes
Sunspots (Lotus Press, Detroit, 1976), Midnight Lessons (Samisdat, 1987), and
Lutibelle's Pew (Dragon Disks, 1990).