Size / / /

Some ghosts, low on energy,

emit a small flicker,

the click of a lighter

that sparks but doesn't fire.

Others, a bit larger,

can drift from the end

of a lighted cigarette

or hitch-hike on the tailpipe of a car.

Sometimes the fields of things break loose,

turn ghostly on us.

Still, the size of ghosts is not proportional

to the space they occupied

in a previous existence:

some ants drag around spirits

the size of houses.

One specter rises from the campfire

and dances on the tips of the flames,

a ballerina trying on red slippers

in a hopeless search for the perfect fit.

Her story, if you draw close enough to listen,

is sadder than anything in Hans Andersen.

It always brings red tears to the eyes.

Since energy is never lost, only converted,

do the big ghosts eventually swallow the little?

Perhaps, enlarged to the size of her spirit,

the little match girl

is matchless in another other place.

This is no joke —

ghosts are real —

as real as economics.

I saw one under a microscope.

The biologist said "amoeba" and it vanished

as if a counter-spell had been cast.




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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