The Ghost

Kenneth Ronkowitz

The ghost is back, she said, when he entered the bedroom.
How do you know? he said, sitting on the edge of the bed and picking up his book.
The closet light was on. And the boxes were moved again.
Exhaling like a weightlifter doing repetitions, he retraced his path to the door.
Be kind, she said, but be firm.

On the stairs the sounds came to him. The teapot being lifted from the kettle, metallic scrape, earthenware on the wooden tabletop.
Hello? he said, before entering, so as not to frighten the ghost sitting at the table, right hand holding the tea cup, left hand shuffling through mail piled next to the napkin holder.

Hello. I hope it’s okay that I used the water.  I don’t really want the tea.  I just miss the aroma.
It’s fine, he answered.
You miss all those everyday morning smells — pillowcase, shower, soap, shampoo, towel, sweater over your head, tea and coffee, toast–

I didn’t think you’d be back, he interrupted.  After last time. I thought you were… He swept his arm toward the door.
So did I. But then autumn came, and snow, and holiday lights were on the street. And I just needed to.
Again, he said.

Yes, again. The ghost laughed.  Is that so wrong?
No. You know it’s not that. I just wanted to
Move on? the ghost finished.
Get on. With your, he paused.
With my life? Is that what you were going to say. It’s okay. I still say that, after all this time. I say get on with my life.

You went into the closet, he went on.
Yes. I see that everything is gone. Nothing left?
No. I got rid of the last of it.
Even the photographs?
No. There are still some of those.
Oh. I didn’t see them. You moved them.
She moved them. Somewhere. I don’t even know where. Somewhere.
Was she upset?
No. Just tired.
That’s understandable. Justified. She has every right. Nothing against her.

In the window, he could see the moon, waxing bright and cold.
I could make a cup for you, said the ghost.
No. Thanks. I don’t drink tea much anymore.
The ghost nodded.  People change. Habits change.
Yes. They do.

Well, you don’t mind if I sit here a bit longer? It seems so cold out there. I know it’s not really cold, but it seems warmer in here.
Of course not. Stay. But I need to get back to bed.
He moved toward the stairs.
I’ll read a bit, so if you need something, I’ll be awake for a while.
No. I’m good. I’ll clean up. Just a few minutes. You won’t even know I’m here.

On the way up the stairs, he thought he heard the chair scrape, or a drawer.
When he entered the bedroom, he noticed the moon was right outside the window.
He got into bed.

And? she said.
I don’t know. There’s not much left to say.
What about the closet? she asked.
He looked over at the closet door, still open.
The pictures. I think it’s the pictures. Would you take care of that in the morning?
Are you sure? she said.
He nodded a yes, and opened his book and stared at the pages for a few minutes. She fell asleep beside him. He turned off the light and fell asleep surprisingly fast.

When he awakened, the room was in half-light and through the other window, he could see a pale moon still visible. He heard her downstairs making breakfast. He would just lie there a little longer until the sun was stronger and then he would be able to get on with it.

Kenneth Ronkowitz’s poetry is anthologized in A Constellation of Kisses, The Paradelle, The Practicing Poet, The Crafty Poet, and has appeared in numerous journals. He is the founding editor of since 1998. A lifelong educator, he lives in New Jersey.