Daytime Ghosts by William Doreski

Daytime ghosts appear most often
in sun-swept forest where light
and shade flicker into and out
of formerly human forms.
Sometimes they chill me foolish
on hot afternoons when sweat
glues my T-shirt to my torso
and half-blinds me sluicing down
my forehead. These humid moments
drop my guard and expose me
to perceptions angled slightly
enough to reveal ghosts flitting
from tree to tree, nimble inside
their little gusts of resurrection.
No one believes they’re authentic,
although every hiker sees them.
We know that ghosts haunt places
deformed by culture, congealing
upstairs or in creepy basements,
hanging like bats in steeples,
rising in vapor from graveyards.
Catching them naked in the forest
should reassure us that life
after death resembles classical
notions of woodland gaiety.
But the chill that sometimes grabs me
knots my tired muscles and stops
my heart for a moment. Here
at the edge of the marsh the light
moves so briskly the ghost-figures
dance with terrible clarity,
as if expecting me to join them.
One day, before the equinox
flattens the curve of light,
I’ll venture into the spongy marsh
to see if the ghosts are thicker
there, feeding on mud and swelling
like golems. Reverting to matter,
although a temporary state,
might challenge me to imagine
being that flesh rather than this.

William Doreski has published three critical studies and several collections of poetry. His work has appeared in many print and online journals. He has taught at Emerson College, Goddard College, Boston University, and Keene State College. His most recent book is Stirring the Soup.