Ghost Currency

Beyond all boundaries, at memory’s undoing—
As when the dreamer sees and after the dream
The passion endures, imprinted on his being

Though he can’t recall the rest…

~ “Paradiso,” Dante Alighieri, trans. Robert Pinsky

Why now, why write again of that place
left behind, or resurrect the ghosts

that nearly languished in long hallways
of forgetting? We never thought

they’d last as long as they did,
keep prowling in the wings, waiting

patiently for their cue to re-enter
the scene. Is it that they haven’t quit

connections, still harbor appetite
for worldly things? I suspect we’ve been

no help, setting trays of sweets, bites
of food, cups of drink in front of their

framed portraits on the mantel— a way
of keeping the porch lights on. No wonder

they take their time, keep coming back,
reminding you of how they used to hurt,

of promises you haven’t kept. My Chinese
friends burn joss sticks, wads of paper

bills, paper houses, paper cars, paper
designer clothes to symbolize the wealth

they want to transfer and that their loved ones
on the other side will need or miss the most.

Even the dead, apparently, now are trendy:
among the paper retinue sent up in flames

are credit cards, paper Happy Meals and paper
vegan options; bicycles, Apple computers,

iPhones, Apple watches. And because paradise
or the ever after apparently is not a place

stripped of action or desire, there are paper
motels whose rooms have paper plasma TV screens.

In the lobby there are paper boxes of Viagra,
paper condoms and dispensers next to the ice

machine; and down a paper alley, paper beer
gardens where the beer is always on the house.

 

In response to an entry from the Morning Porch.

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