TW: DEATH & DYING
Neal Cassady’s Ghost Teaches Me About Truth
Nobody knows how I died.
The words appear in the peripheral
of my perception, they do not wake
my husband lying next to me.
This not the Secret Hero’s first visit
but the first time I’m aware of his fluid voice,
now coursing through my stream of consciousness.
I know that Neal, I read it on Wikipedia.
I feel uncovered after telling him this,
huddled under a top sheet in mismatched pajamas.
I’m uneasy and shivering at the realization I like it.
They say I died of exposure; they sure don’t know
the true meaning of the word. Been stripped so bare
under so many eyes, can hardly recognize what’s real anymore.
He stands at the foot of my bed,
with eyes beginning to sink back as if to stop
themselves from revealing what they’ve seen.
His lips pout in defiance,
they would betray him for a sip of red wine
and have done so for smaller indulgences.
I’m still expecting his ghost to mimic this transparence.
Like I expect to see my dresser and undecorated walls
through his translucent chest, but he is substantive,
his muscles look like facts in the dark room.
This continues to be surprising, my brain
won’t accept the information my eyes are certain of.
You looked like shit at the end, Neal.
I thought living fast meant leaving
a beautiful corpse.
Ain’t nothing beautiful about death.
You’re the type to leave your diary on the train
if you thought the right person might find it.
As if you’ve had it so rough. That thing you call eternal sadness,
your unique flaws? That’s just the human condition, get used to it.
Aren’t you tired of your half existence in a broken fantasy?
How’d you die, Neal?
I need this secret truth,
this lonely structure to build
my reality upon.
Alone. I was alone on foreign train tracks
and my empty body froze like steel.
I died empty, that’s how I died.
Quick as thought, I’m out of bed,
standing before him, his eyes young
like they are in the photographs I’ve memorized.
His chest appears solid, heavy with remorse.
I beat my fists against him until I realize
it is just my bedroom wall.
Miriam Kramer resides in New Jersey with her partner and two cats. She works at an educational nonprofit. Her debut chapbook, In Time This Too Shall Be Proven Foolish was published by dancing girl press. Miriam has read poems out loud to friends and strangers in many parking lots and established venues across the US.