Substantial Evidence Against Ghosts



Just think of all the times you thought the bed sheets on the line were ghosts:

There must be hundreds of those kinds of memories still following you,


even after your classes in the paranormal at the high school ended.

And even still, you thought that the shadows in the library were also


somehow proof, and yet the only one who could corroborate your claims

was your fifteen year old daughter who had been drinking bottles of cough syrup.


God himself only knows what she saw on those evenings when you were working

towards a better life and she was high as a kite on Kafka and gas station amphetamines.


After decades of scrambling around in old abandoned buildings hoping

for a cold spot, you’re still at it; you think you’re going to find proof


that there is some kind of life after death. Prove it, you say to yourself.

And you, in your scarf and self-confidence, you risk so much


to live through one story about a kind of love that could have been

if not for death. This is so common, though, and you trust


the skeletons clinging to one another in each shipwreck

to make it less so; you trust that it is their voices on the digital recorder


you happen to pick up while diving down among that wreckage.

You think of the ship as if it’s your heart, your ass sweating in your jeans


when you told your parents that you had decided to major in the unseen.

God save the man who brings home an invisible animal to eat.


But we are all invisible animals – of this you feel sure.

When the curtains blow into the room, you feel the death train


gaining speed. You feel the violent cloak of death unraveling in the nursery,

and you rush in with your notebooks and your scribe,


and you’re saying to him, Make sure you get the laughter here in this moment.

Make sure you get the noise.

Erin J. Mullikin is currently the Olive B. O’Connor poetry fellow at Colgate University and a graduate of Syracuse University’s MFA program. Her poems and short fiction have been published in places such as elsewhere, Ghost Ocean, Arts & Letters, Phantom, Sprung Formal, Dusie, Whiskey Island, Muzzle, Bodega, Spring Gun Press, Spork, and Best New Poets 2014, among others. She is the founding editor of the online literary journal NightBlock and the small literary press Midnight City Books.