Issue 28: James Midgley

Some Enduring Ghosts

When it thinks very hard a film of sweat appears to form a protective packet.

Nobody, not a soul, has yet proven I contain organs.

A fire would be lit underneath the brazen bull with the occupant sealed inside.

The head is designed intelligently to transform pain into sound.

Imagine being stuffed into the very thing you created. That's how it is for memories.

I release this wild boomerang thought of you back into its natural habitat.

Some Corporeal Ghosts

This schoolhouse attic has a dream in which two students are taking each other apart.

If you really despise candles you might like this one which burns with the scent of a dying candle.

Body as a kind of rucksack that vision carries.

Great echoing spaces over the biology lab, a blank heaven skittering with escaped knockout mice.

To induce mating, on occasion a mirror is placed in the enclosure.

I found myself enclosed in a pinscreen executive desk toy, the sensation quite enjoyable until I tried to move against the needles.

Some Unspillable Ghosts

Hands want to be pocketed. They get embarrassed. You think about them too much.

Too late. Milk on the kitchen tiles where the moon climbed through the window and got into the unattended fridge.

Hands are a particular kind of thought, stabilised into a particular kind of structure. They form powerful pair bonds.

When I think about the things mine have done… then they drift away, surface of a breaking wave.

Curtains draw. A vase drops. Out come these long limbless petal-headed spines.

It isn’t rain but the sound of rain that brings the worms reaching up.

Some Revealed Ghosts

The pale squares darkening under gradual rainfall.

I dream my head has just boiled. I rush to catch it as it finishes squealing. I've left it too long.

Inside: nothing!

Some Wintering Ghosts

Stand still long enough and feet reattach to the earth as they do to shadow.

In the hibernaculum we found evidence: one fire, recently stamped; an emptied pen; a pocketless photo.

Every cave connects somewhere, in a thicket of pneumatic tubes.

As if each head were an entrance. The tongue continues for miles, the world's most elaborate root structure.

Pre-winter's shattered tabernacle of incurled leaves, pearled blood berries, the mind shy and with stained muzzle gone to ground.

Hear that? Just the wind, which anyone can translate, and may already be quoting by accident.

Some Negotiated Ghosts

In my philosophy, I admit, it is No which is the only living thing.

A locust, already resembling an ear of corn, lands on a listening ear of corn.

We'd got it all wrong about objects. These are only a fine set of footnotes.

With sufficient encounters, an epigenetic change occurs, each encounter having raised the level of serotonin through gentle thigh-touching, such that the organism becomes substantially larger, more aggressive and gregarious.

Inside such sensual concretions there shivers a small-voiced abstraction.

We'd gone miles inland, through acres of sky, our chests full of a shared draught of air, a bird-body's volume of flight. Night started without transition.

Some Lonely Ghosts

Stars like cracks in the windscreen. The earth hurtling. Then this: slender river whose surface is starred with dying crane flies.

I am obsessed with images. The psychiatrist prescribes one empty capsule to be taken daily. I want to tell him about the plastic smell of the air inside the capsule but I swallow the urge.

…made up of individual spheres made up of tectonic plates made up of rock and earth made up of pulverised organisms made up of…

What if the ocean is a continuous laugh-track siphoned directly into your ears?

The end of my naivety came when I discovered another smaller pocket inside my jeans pocket.

Your ears alone.

Some Created Ghosts

One cannot help but think a tree would disagree.

…made up of fascicles made up of branches made up of nerves made up of tussocks made up of ganglions made up of haulms...

As punishment the sculptor was set to work on a perfectly reflective body of stone.

A flatpack onion (it cures weeping).

Few are prepared for the sheer quantity of dust in a film studio. The set, a portable microcosm of carpentry and fiction, is locked in place, its innards wallpapered, the stone floor actually floorpapered, pristine, lit, thinking to itself, pondering the lopped off and echoing voices of its occupants, surrounded by dust, beaches of dust, white noise of sifting dust.

Some Sympathetic Ghosts

The loom, a kind of window down which rain is streaming, shakes when a houseguest slams a door.

From upstairs I could see the light spill from your bedroom.

The scent of cut grass, the cut stalks, days being cut down to size, to be kept in this little locket of scent.

What language would it speak, the louse that eats and replaces the fish's tongue?

Sky at the window weaving.

As I slept, my earwig crawled out of my ear and descended the stairs. A clock startled it. It persevered, found your upturned ear.

I admire that instance in which the vase breaks and the water meets the air, hears the air’s terrific punchline, collapses into laughter.

Some Perfected Ghosts

               for Linda Moses

Over dinner we exchanged likeness and difference. Buttermilk and butterfly. Bluebells and churchbell. The mind upstairs sulking.

I had this thought then which I realised stood in for everything, satisfactorily accounted for any other thought I might have had. It concerned ending: as an accumulation, prepared and assembled with great diligence – a perfection, an incredibly dense full stop

I have seen sardine dishes and I have seen sardines. I have seen a sardine in a dish, but never a sardine in a sardine dish.

Mantis skin still clinging to the underside of a leaf. Black specks churn inside it, fly or walk in and out of its bounds. These and smaller creatures, moisture, particles of air, assemble inside in successive instars.

Any meal can be dessert, my friend asserts, but especially the next one.

James Midgley has published in journals including Blackbox Manifold, The Kenyon Review, Poetry Review, The Rialto, Shearsman Magazine and in anthologies such as The Salt Book of Younger Poets and Dear World and Everyone In It. Eric Gregory 2008, Evergreen Review grant 2020.

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