Cathryn Essinger: “All Hallows”


The inflatable ghost my neighbor has placed
on his front lawn has already done his job.

He startled me once in the moonlight, and now
I am ready to be done with him.

His wiggly fingers, his vinyl hide are no more
frightening than a Sunoco sign.

He’s not like the spider that drops beside my ear,
or the ominous creak of an empty chair.

But what do I know about the supernatural?
Maybe plastic and glitter can be just as haunted

as any Halloween cliché. And, I do remember
the young man who appeared on my doorstep

one October evening, his grand cape floating
behind him, lifting in an imperceptible breeze,

and the little witch who appeared from nowhere.
I mean, No. Where. A small child, dressed in black,

unaccompanied on a moonlit night, her confidence
in our generosity so casual, so cheeky, that we

gave her everything we had and would have
given more, except she left just as she came,

unnamed, unannounced, her only protection her
naiveté and our reluctance to question her.

By morning the ghost will be nothing but a puddle,
his plastic smirk buried in the grass,

a sad reminder that everything can be deflated
in the light of day, and now I regret having

wished him ill. Who am I to prick the illusion,
to name the shades that honor the night,

especially here, in November’s first light, when
suddenly everything seems holy, cold and bare?

Cathryn Essinger is he author of three books of poetry—A Desk in the Elephant House from Texas Tech University Press,  My Dog Does Not Read Plato and What I Know About Innocence, both from Main Street Rag. Her poems have appeared in Poetry, Southern Review, Antioch Review, and New England Review, among other literary journals.

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