Content

Issue 14
The Ghost Hand Follows Me Everywhere

In the pet shop a ghost hand tickles
the back of the saleswoman’s neck.
She hopes to sell cat accessories–
catnip toys, plastic litter box,
maybe rope and carpet scratching post–
but shivered by that smoky touch
can utter only words beginning
with b: banana, barge, bountiful.
I’ve seen this ghost hand at work
before, so respond with words
beginning with y: yellow, yawn,
yam, youngster. To exorcize
that creepy effect we have to word
our way through half the alphabet,
through c, d, e and v, w, x
and beyond. I wanted a dozen
catnip mice to rouse my pets
from the summer’s daily stupor,
but the ghost hand follows me
everywhere, and curses whomever
I encounter. The pet shop owner,
a surly mustached fellow maybe
fifty and married with four kids,
creeps behind the mesmerized
saleswoman and wraps an arm
around her chest. The ghost effect
has entered him, and he’s no one
his wife would know. The woman
utters gallop, gin, gantry, goat,
and I counter with tennis, turkey,
trebuchet. But too late. The ghost
inhabiting the mustache drags
the saleswoman down to the carpet.
It’s impossible to intervene,
so I rush outside to purge myself
of superstition, the random cries
of that innocent victim beginning
with h and rhyming with howl.