Ghosts by Peter Burrows

‘Ghosts are what we fear and what we hope for.’ Adam Nicholson

I always believed in ghosts
Fearing the inevitable
That someday I would see one.
Though what would happen next
Would be anyone’s guess.
Fuelled by grown-ups’ gas-fire tales
At family gatherings:

Spectral bedside visits, cowled
Reunited grandparents;
My sceptic Dad pursuing
His wandering Nan downstairs;
Your father’s posthumous pint
Stoked us cousins well, scaring
Ourselves richly; mythmaking

Not only bedtime stories.
Anywhere invoked destiny.
Heightening old haunts, corners
Where a dark glint could summon
Fearful relief: My time come.
My teens’ homemade Ouija boards
Ghost-hunted validation

To reach anyone beyond this life.
Who pushed the glass to invite
White terror messages, and
Nights embracing the Bible?
Then before I knew, outgrown.
Reasoning and sense won out.
Even your sudden early death

Did not scare me. Habitual
Comfort felt you were still there.
Before I could realise
You were more than just misplaced
And family rifts widened
The space that could not be filled
The searching dreams ceased. You were

Undeniably nothing.
You, simple and honest saw
What you believed so in turn
They came back to you. Untrue
But true to you; not for me.
But hang the laws of physics –
Scare me with the floating bed,

The apparitional grandma
Smiling through the wallpaper…
Back at the family home
I stay up alone recalling
Your presence, in your arm chair.
The memory grasps – willing
You through the old shadows where

Only childish hope remains.


This poem was first published in The Cannon’s Mouth.


Peter Burrows is a librarian in the North West of England. His poems have most recently appeared in The North, The Interpreter’s House, The Frogmore Papers, The Cannon’s Mouth, Reach Poetry, Dreamcatcher, Now Then (Manchester & Sheffield), The Eildon Tree, The Dawn Treader, Riggwelter and Bonnie’s Crew. Twitter @Peter_Burrows74

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