“Ghost Machine” by Terry Tierney

My mother says the camera steals souls,

flash bulb explodes and collapses,

sucking spirits through shutters and lens,

ghostly fog on silver nitrate.

Edison’s last invention,

a way to reverse the process,

ghost machine to call the dead

fails because they already answered,

hanging on damp Smithsonian walls.

You see them in prints from Antietam,

stoic generals, and twisted dead

souls raining down on fences and pasture,

wagon wheels stuck in spirit mud,

Matthew Brady’s pine boxes

stuffed with ghosted plates,

Red Cloud his proud nose,

the prairie woman’s scarred face 

she says she remembers.

Album of souls on her coffee table,

family photos I scan to cloud,

even those from her funeral

that day I left my umbrella home

and learned that some escape,

her spirit seeping through my coat,

making sure I’ll never forget.


Terry’s collection of poetry, The Poet’s Garage, will be published by Unsolicited Press in May 2020. His poems and stories have recently appeared in Typishly, The Mantle, Valparaiso Poetry Review, Front Porch Review, Jersey Devil Press, The Lake and other publications. Lucky Ride (Unsolicited Press), an irreverent Vietnam-era road novel, is set to release in 2022. His website is https://terrytierney.com.

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