Introducing the April 2011 Readers – 1. Ryan Van Winkle

Ryan Van Winkle is Reader in Residence at the Scottish Poetry Library. His work has appeared in New Writing Scotland, The American Poetry Review, AGNI and Northwords Now. His first collection, Tomorrow, We Will Live Here was released by Salt last year. He lives in Edinburgh but is still an American.

My 100-year-old ghost

sits up with me when the power cuts,

tells about the trout at Unkee’s Lake,
the wood house burned on the hill.

He says he was intimate
with every leaf of grass.

Wore one hat for Griswold,
another for his own field,

the possibilities of the century laid out;
an endless string of fishing pools.

But they never got ahead of my ghost –
he took them like cows, one at a time,

never lusted for the color of trout
in a pool a mile away.

He knew from the smoke in the sky
Mrs. Johnson was starting supper,

and, in March when the candles appeared,
he knew Bobby’s boy had died.

My ghost only ever had one bar
where the keeper didn’t water his drinks,

nor did he feel the need to hide his moth cap,
his potato clothes, or scrub himself birth pink.

My ghost tells me there was a time
you’d look out and not find a Dairy Queen.

You could sit on your porch a whole life
and never think about China.

Sometimes I see my ghost
bringing cut sunflowers to his wife

and it seems so simple.
Then, sometimes, it is dark

he’s just in from work and Griswold says
they ain’t going to raise his pay.

And even back then the power went out,
long nights when they had no kerosene.

And my ghost tries to sell me on simpler times:
the grass soft, endless

lampless nights,
pools of crickets singing.

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