Size / / /

First, we sent away the trees,

then the bubble of breath

they had long exhaled,

itself drifting off,

a large blue balloon

getting smaller and smaller

as the sky shrank away from us

to a pinprick that itself went out.

For a while,

those who could afford it

lived on bottled water, canned air,

and videos of sky, sea, and earth,

till, finally, none could afford

even these surrogates for life.

Little by little,

with nothing to ground them,

those few still left became

greater and greater

strangers to themselves.

When we were all gone,

we learned that the stories

about ghosts were true;

we survived, haunting the old places

that themselves were barely

memories of themselves,

reciting lists of all the varieties

of bush and bird,

tree and cloud,

that were no more.

Now perhaps we will discover

how long a ghost can hang onto

the ghost of a memory.

Duane Ackerson's poetry has appeared in Rolling Stone, Yankee, Prairie Schooner, The Magazine of Speculative Poetry, Cloudbank, alba, Starline, Dreams & Nightmares, and several hundred other places. He has won two Rhysling awards and a grant from the National Endowment for the Arts. He lives in Salem, Oregon. You can find more of his work in our archives.
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