The RWB Poets started to hold online workshops on Zoom in an effort to carry on with our writing in time of pandemics. As a new initiative, we’re proposing that one of us will do a short process piece about a poem we workshopped on Tuesday. Here is this week’s pick, Tom Benediktsson on “Ghosting.”
I learned the term “ghosting” two months ago. Duh…not knowing it was a cliché, it seemed like a vivid metaphor. I thought back about times in my life when I ghosted or got ghosted, and then I remembered that dramatic day.
That’s how the poem started, breaking my rule not to write directly from personal experience. Usually I hide behind a speaker I’ve made up– a character, an alter ego.
While writing the poem I also began to think about “ghosting” as a metaphor for writing. Writing, it occurred to me, can be a kind of “ghosting,” in the sense not of erasing but of inventing someone. Thus writing as that boy I once was is “ghosting.” A ghost writer, of course, is paid to write in someone else’s voice. Maybe all narrative poetry is ghost writing, except of course we don’t get paid. Maybe in all lyric poetry we invent a ghost of ourselves.
But enough philosophizing. When I revise the poem I’ll drop the three ghosting definitions, for which all of the above was shorthand, and just tell the story, Tom!
Hmmmm…. who am I when I tell “Tom” what to do?
I’m seventeen. Sitting in a hospital room,
failing to write a paper about Aristotle’s Ethics.
They wheel in my mother, post hysterectomy.
Her snoring stops when a patient shouts out
that the president has been shot.
My mother mumbles.
“Has the president been shot?”
I telephone my father the recluse.
“The president has been shot.”
“To hell with the president how’s your mother!”
I spend the day tending my mother
and checking on the news. That evening,
back at the university, my girlfriend of three weeks
wants to laugh hysterically, wants to dance,
wants me to be that cancelled homecoming date.
She doesn’t ask about the hospital.
I kiss her good night, realize I don’t really like her.
And so I don’t call her again. Ever.
Aristotle might not approve.
Ghosting: abruptly shutting down a relationship.
Ghosting: summoning the dead.
Ghosting: writing as another person.
It’s 57 years. That girl I hurt is a ghost.
That boy I was is another ghost.
My parents, ghosts. The murdered president.