WRITING FOR GHOSTS by D.L.McHale


ghosts

It is 4 a.m. and once again I am planted before the keyboard attempting to craft words into clever sentences…and there you go, failure in the first keystrokes. The good news, based upon my dearth of hits on WordPress, is that no one will read this anyway.

I once envisioned myself a budding writer, but now I am thoroughly convinced that feeling was nothing more than insomnia in the early morning hours combined with a pot of cheap coffee flushing out last night’s indigestion (don’t worry, that’s as graphic as I am capable of writing!)

I know I could be a good writer, if it wasn’t for all that grammar and words and things. But who am I kidding? It’s all about the words…the fucking words! (Hey, I used “dearth” in my second sentence…doesn’t that count for anything?) Well, I don’t have words or ideas or pesky plots, but what I do have is way too much time on my hands, so here you go.

When I write, I don’t have a particular audience in mind. Well, sort of, I guess…I have the ghosts of Baudelaire, Rimbaud, Hemingway, and Plath. Sweet Sylvia Plath. Lots of dead people who, while not necessarily helpful critics, at least show up in my head and watch the circus of confusion unfold. Sometimes I can hear the occasional clicking of the tongue, a sure sign to lay on the backspace and come at a line from a new direction. Or maybe the clicking is the melting cubes in Ernest’s posthumous cocktail. The revolver of his pistol being locked into place? Who knows? The point is, I’m often guided by the whispers of spirits.

It feels as though when I write it has less to do with me having something to say than something that has to be said having me to write it. (Wow, I just plagiarized myself..that last line was something I wrote a year ago!) But it’s true, nonetheless. I often find that it is sufficient for me to just press the keys, and somehow the story will tell itself. Don’t believe me? I just wrote everything above without a thought in my head.

The key to being a great writer, I’m convinced, is to be a great reader. There is nothing I can say now, or will ever write, that hasn’t been said or written before. But a studious reader understands that there are a million ways to say the same thing, and that’s the beauty, and salvation, of writing. You don’t have to be original. You just have to have a unique dialect. In my case, it also helps to have a really poor opinion of most of today’s writing. I continually lie to myself and say, “I can do better!” And sometimes…I do. Then I pull down a worn copy of Pushkin and think, “shit..fuck this!! I can’t write!” And again, I am right.

So I continue my early morning ritual and if it’s true what they say, that if you give 1,000 monkeys 1,000 typewriters, in a thousand years, one of them will bang out the complete works of William Shakespeare, then surely, if this continues for a thousand mornings, I can bang out something worth reading.

The Following Two Poems Just Published by Indiana University’s Literary and Arts Journal


I am extremely honored that two of my poems, “Graveyard” and “Corner Bar” have been published in the spring edition of “From the Well House” – Indiana University’s Literary and Arts Journal. Please visit them on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/fromthewellhouse  I am reposting the two poems here in honor of my “Followers” who push me to keep writing with their support and encouragement.  These two poems are for you! ~ Thank you….Dennis McHale

GRAVEYARD

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I always found the
taste of Heaven stale,
like coffee three days old.

I prefer to spend my nights
in graveyards with ghosts,
in the company of stone angels
and cemetery cats
whispering my secrets to the dead.

The setting sun casts
dying fingers of soft orange light
through rusting iron gates,
lobbing sharp, offensive shadows
across these cold granite faces.

Above, an unkindness of ravens
caw an unspeakable truth.
Of late, I have been known
to sing with them.

My darkness is a sanctuary,
my voice a broken prayer.
My hope deeply planted
in this field of shattered bones
awaiting a resurrection
that shall never come.

Here among the sleeping dead
I have lain down many times,
and in the stillness of the night
have heard my death composed.

CORNER BAR

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It always felt familiar and safe;
not like home, but filled with that same tragic scent
of failure, futility, and confusion.
In this darkened chapel, night after night,
we feigned brotherhood, but watched our backs.
We found religion in tall tales
and twisted notes floating softly from the jukebox.
The enormity of the lies exchanged was staggering,
yet not once was truth demanded.

Here, we worshiped and blessed ourselves
at the mahogany and brass altar of amber absolution,
our sins washed in a flood of cheap whiskey and stale beer.
Our bottles filled the night with dead words and hungry ashtrays
and all these incessant “maybes”
while shameless calls for “another!” filled the tepid air.

We licked the back of our teeth
and bought rounds for the prostitute sitting there all alone,
hunched over to entice our drunken libidos.
We adored her, this faded Madonna,
with her chipped teeth and sagging breasts,
reeking of a stale alcohol and tragic perfume.
Where once there had been beauty and life
some bastard had beaten it out of her;
taking everything that made a woman good and reduced her to this.
Our prayers were answered
in the way this whore swallowed you whole
in the back room’s secret confessional
where you keep her words tightly knit
in the dark corners of your heart.

This was the flip-side of our saintly home-lives;
our souls consumed in the repetition of it all.
We whispered our hallelujahs as the clock struck two;
last call and a slow retreat into the shameless shadows of wretched existence,
as God soundly closed the doors behind us.

Last Call


ghost

Last night, as I lay muddled,
in my whiskey-soaked slumber,
A wraith-like mist appeared;
blue-black and musty scented
in tattered rags dipped in dust.

My burning sleep-clenched eyes
could not squeeze the scepter gone.
Her orbs, two onyx stones
set above translucent cheeks;
her mouth, a gaping maw
spewing ruby-red flames.

She floated on an icy breeze
scented with blood and bitters.

“Last call!” she hissed,

pouring me two bony fingers
of amber absolution,
judgment oozing from
her snake-coiled tongue.
I listened to the familiar tinkle
of liquefied reasoning cascading
across ice-cubed rebuttals.

Fear terrorized me,
stroking my belly with cold hands.
My gut curveting far and high
like smoke-flecked stallions
raking the black sky
with their steel-sparked shoes.

the earth reached up
with vise-gripped soiled fingers
grasping my naked ankles
and pulled down my saturated bones;
my drunken soul laid out and set
beneath lichen-laced granite.

Jagged stone-edged knives etched
my name and this,
the year of my drunken descent.

Graveyard


Image

I always found the
taste of Heaven stale,
like coffee three days old.

I prefer to spend my nights
in graveyards with ghosts,
in the company of stone angels
and cemetery cats
whispering my secrets to the dead.

The setting sun casts
dying fingers of soft orange light
through rusting iron gates,
lobbing sharp, offensive shadows
across these cold granite faces.

Above, an unkindness of ravens
caw their unspeakable truth.
Of late, I have been known
to sing with them.

My darkness is a sanctuary,
my voice a broken prayer.
My hope deeply planted
in this field of shattered bones
awaiting a resurrection
that shall never come.

Here among the sleeping dead
I have lain down many times,
and in the stillness of the night
have heard my death composed.