American Life in Poetry: Column 187
BY TED KOOSER, U.S. POET LAUREATE
I thought that we’d celebrate Halloween with an appropriate poem, and Iowa poet Dan Lechay’s seems just right. The drifting veils of rhyme and meter disclose a ghost, or is it a ghost?
Ghost VillanelleWe never saw the ghost, though he was there—
we knew from the raindrops tapping on the eaves.
We never saw him, and we didn’t care.
Each day, new sunshine tumbled through the air;
evenings, the moonlight rustled in dark leaves.
We never saw the ghost, though: he was there,
if ever, when the wind tousled our hair
and prickled goosebumps up and down thin sleeves;
we never saw him. And we didn’t care
to step outside our room at night, or dare
click off the nightlight: call it fear of thieves.
We never saw the ghost, though he was there
in sunlit dustmotes drifting anywhere,
in light-and-shadow, such as the moon weaves.
We never saw him, though, and didn’t care,
until at last we saw him everywhere.
We told nobody. Everyone believes
we never saw the ghost (if he was there),
we never saw him and we didn’t care.
We do not accept unsolicited submissions. American Life in Poetry is made possible by The Poetry Foundation (www.poetryfoundation.org), publisher of Poetry magazine. It is also supported by the Department of English at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. Poem copyright © 2003 by Dan Lechay. Reprinted from “The Quarry,” Ohio University Press, 2003, by permission of Dan Lechay. Introduction copyright © 2020 by The Poetry Foundation. The introduction's author, Ted Kooser, served as United States Poet Laureate Consultant in Poetry to the Library of Congress from 2004-2006.