Ballad Of The Lonely Ghost

She said she travelled
(In her eloquent way)
To see a Medium,
Frequented only yesterday,
Apropos of non-sequiturs
Over our morning tea.
Not the travelling kind,
She said, caravan-bound,
Deep brown eyes beneath
An unwashed shawl –
Beadily watching as one gold coin
Then two would fall, into
Her grisly and well-wizened palm;
No, not that kind you see, she said,
As she tapped her date-stamped
Hard-boiled egg –
Three, four, five times,
Nor the kind of folklore-hag
Whose ghastly attention would demand
Something greater and so much closer
To rapture, and which disarmed
Most ardent former lovers
And battle-hardened
Heavily moustached lieutenants.
No, this particular Haruspex of Time
Conducted her sight-seeing business
From an everyday house
Not far from my innards
On an everyday estate nearby;
An advertisement on the internet,
A card in the window,
And introductory laminated sets
Of terms and conditions,
Frayed at the edge, which she said
Stated very professionally
In legalese vernacular that
You can pay by direct debits,
And she tapped with a quite
Ordinary finger, no boils,
No snake-charm tattoos
At a text which succinctly read:
No refund for mistakes.
Life-affirming posters adorned
Her anaglypta office walls;
Pithy quotes, images in pastels
Of votive candles and petals,
Yoga practitioners
Posturing in lycra, all of which
When relayed to me
I mistook unintentionally
For reliably post-modern
Oracular irony.

I knew without being told
As to who she had enquired about;
It was, after all,
A significant anniversary.
I recalled a funeral,
A sister-in-law in tears,
Readings from a book
Nobody had leafed through
For many, many years.
Aptly black umbrellas,
Except – an aunt who
Refused to where black
Because she said she could not stand
Morbid traditions and so
Brought along a
Parasol in pink.
The vicar uttered appropriate words.
The family stood with patience
And thoughts elsewhere
About football results
And affairs of the heart
And pub opening times
And penitence.
A newspaper article later announced
That he had not meant
To do what he did,
Yet it happened, all the same,
And consequences remain
Instead of what he could have been.

A jolt, a rise in temperature;
Suddenly he was wheeled
Through an ether
Like the beret-wearing grandmother
Of that corner-shop owner
Who used to emerge from a storeroom
And berate their hesitant customers –
Not that corner shops exist these days –
He outlasted, in his own way,
So much, come to think of it.
Wheeled then, yes,
On his upright gurney
Designed for just such
Inter-dimensional bumpy journeys.
He was somewhat philosophical
Despite his condition, whereby
Without choice or say or any form
Of mortal pauses or tenures
Or even dereliction
He is moved from pasture
To pillar to post and
Back to pasture again.
He said that he no longer
Has any arteries or
Heart or veins.
He said the realm he’d entered
Has recently given him a cold,
Possibly influenza although
He is just about coping with
Shivering in his inherently
Discrete and indiscernible
Ghetto for the Soul.
It should be said, I rejoindered
As she slurped on molten yolk
That, in his previous actual life,
He was minded to many an illness;
A hypochondriac, I said.

He did not divulge any mysteries
Of the abundantly divine
To my wife on a Friday,
Nor differential margins
If only just above the earthly plain
Which may make a singular difference
Between the right and the just and the holy.
He said that he had been feeling shaky
A little lately, and he was not one
For sushi and sake from a
Lacquered masu-box,
Yet here he was resigned to
These formalities
And ceremonies
In places we could not tread
On boards or with any maps to plot.
He was worried for the future,
He was worried for what he had lost.
And then, as if to typify
All absolute control foregone,
He was manoeuvred silently,
Slowly, unbearably slowly,
Away from where moments ago
His unwieldy, unworldly form
Had briefly merged with ours.

And since that day
I feel a certain constancy,
Permanency, too,
In loss and life-long being abandoned.
Sometimes, I waywardly strive
To divert my waking mind from it,
Often unsuccessfully,
Sometimes I find
These bald and wailing perinatal
Conditions comforting,
Because I am used to it,
Because in the storm-tossed
Concussions and contusions
You confirmed for me
That I did once exist,

Even if for now
I knock at the glass windows
Just as he once did, and yet
Which showcase your successes
While I persist only
As a living ghost
Palms open,
No tokens,
You will never find
A camaraderie, a troupe of ghosts –
It is just not how we were made,
Drifting through all others’ hopes
And into our open graves.