Ghosts are intriguing. The livings’ concern for the dead ranges from the childish, playful notion of white sheets with eyes that glide through walls to the hair-prickling fear of the paranormal. Do they exist? Can the living see them? Can the living talk to them? Why do they exist? Are they trapped until revenge for crimes committed against them in life is achieved? Are they on earth to warn the living? Warn us of what? Should we listen? Should we worry about vengeance taken against us? Ghosts are so fascinating that every culture has some lore, tradition, or taboo associated with them.
Ghosts are lasting. Unlike giant ants, rabid birds, and green Martians, ghosts still hold our cultural imagination. However more troubling is the double entendre here. The identity of a ghost is lasting: the un-dying. They do not go away.
Hauntings harm both the living and the dead because both parties remain trapped. It is real easy to tell someone that they need to just let go of the past. ‘Let go of the relationship, he left you and you need to move on.’ ‘Let go of the abuse you went through, it is over and you need to move on.’ ‘Let go of the ideas you had about how your life should look, the reality is now and you need to move with it.’ But why does no one suggest that the ghost be the one to move on? After all, it is the ghost who is holding on to something when clearly he should just die. Yet they are stuck in an ephemeral state, and keep the humans they haunt trapped in a cycle of replaying what could have or should have been over and over and over.
Ghosts are sneaky in the way they reside in smells, songs, and settings. Although you walked out on me, ending the plans for our future like a flame being snuffed out, the smoke of that fire constantly comes back to cloud my vision and sting my eyes. Because every time I smell that soft sticky sweet smell of your perfume I can feel you holding my hand and listening to the secret of my goals.
How I wish you would just die. But like the autumn leaves, you cling to the now dead branch and flash colors so loud that you cannot be ignored. At least the impending winter is a guarantee death to the fall leaves. The cold will soon settle heavy upon the fragile bodies of a no longer living, but not quite dead leaf, and force it to the ground where it will find the peace of decay. You? You just linger on, holding me captive by your random visits. It would be a lot easier to “just move on” if the hopes and dreams and passions and pains would die, if the ghost of what once was would die.
How do you kill a ghost? The person has already been killed once. You already died once before. I had to learn to live without you, so why are you back? I’ve never felt so wicked as the day I approached you and asked you to die again. “I thought you’d be happy to see me again,” you said. Well I thought I would be too, but your presence comes with a tether to old memories and dreams that I don’t want.
At first they told me to try yoga and herbal tea before bed. This was a nice distraction, but no solution. When you started showing up consistently, they told me to try prayer. This was as effective as a cardigan in a snowstorm. Now they say I need to ignore your sightings, and put the thoughts of you out of my mind. I have to wonder if it really is up to the living to get on with things. Why is no one telling you to let go of me?
Is this my old chain? / My mind is away,
How long have you been gone?
And the cold winter’s aged / The soft of your face.
And I can’t move on. Linger on / Linger on / Linger on
No I can’t move on.
-“Autumn Trees”, Milo Greene