Leslie Harrison

Voyager parable and Parable of the Little Ghost
July 21, 2021 Harrison Leslie

Voyager parable


Today I am downhearted meaning sunken meaning mired

Come and be with me in the places just vacated by the predators

First stillness then the rustle of applause

For the incandescent light of survival

For the mighty who hunger but do not dwell

For the timid in their stillness

Even sound waves are a kind of migration

How somewhere out there so deep in the sky we can’t find it

Something is singing a song full of static ecstatic with our survival

Somewhere closer by a cicada is crawling out of itself

It will grow wings and it will die

On the record a tree covered in snow

Even trees begin their lives as a journey

First a fall and then a breaking

On the record violence implied by an ancient wall

On the record my childhood lighthouse

Not one shipwreck weapon predator not one war

If the record migrates in only one direction

We are frail craft we are small fry born into mystery

We sleep in our skin waiting to be woken with touch

On the record a baby cries and someone sings

And the record flies on

And the crickets go on chirping

And nothing ever dies


Parable of the little ghost


& some cultures believe in their ghosts

& the moon is the broken child cast out

& it’s this planetary ghost small pale dead thing

& we regard and disregard and blame the moon

& I believe in my ghosts

& they appear to me not as visions but right here as the living

& some of them I love and some want to kill me

& killing is wrong

& some southern fields grow crops of lead balls

& the water turns to wine and wine turns to blood

& the fields take it back to water and the plants make it into mist

& mist is the ghost of water

& it looks like the ghost of soldiers

& god believes in ghosts it says so right there in the text

& our eyes can never combine red and green some colors are beyond us

& so we have Christmas and the blood-soaked fields

& the people believe in god but not in ghosts

& religion is complicated

& sometimes the text says ghost but means wind means maybe life

& sometimes the text is red

& red means to be spoken by a man

& sometimes the text says ghost but means helper

& the exclamation mark may indicate astonishment or surprise

& perhaps it is rooted in joy

& a dead language

& it looks to me like a lamp casting light

& ghosts were in the text from the start but joy was added after

& we do not talk about ghosts or how our eyes divide color

& in one version there are 275 moments of added joy

& that is a lot of joy

& still it illuminates nothing

Leslie Harrison’s second book, The Book of Endings (Akron, 2017) was a finalist for the National Book Award. Her first book, Displacement (Mariner, 2009), won the Bakeless Prize in poetry. She lives and works in Baltimore.