Ghosts, by Rob S. Rice


Ghosts all around us, of great and small men,
Waltzing, or whispering, 'Do you think of when...?'
Ghosts of brave women, plain women, or fair.
We come from the past, there are ghosts everywhere.

Men died for that bridge there, and watch us drive by,
And drowned when that dam burst, and not knowing why,
And women were killed when their horses went wild,
Or died in old age, or in birthing a child.

The heroes lived once, though the memories fade,
The roar of the cannon, the bursting grenade,
The bark of the mortar, the kick of the gun,
And blood long since dried, but their duty, still done.

Lincoln walks somewhere, perhaps wrings his hands,
Yet Washington knows that the Union still stands.
And Grant lies neglected, but untouched by scorn,
And Truman, and Arthur, with few left to mourn.

There were Whitney's muskets, and Edison's sweat,
Two brothers from Dayton, success, and regret,
And Ericsson's iron, and his iron will,
And legions of workers, and more legions still.

The steel mills lie empty, the shipyards are gone,
Canals are filled in, but the country lives on.
Machines have gone silent, but still, in the fields,
The reaper takes in what Grandfather's farm yields.

Ghosts wander old mineshafts, or empty rail beds,
Their homes and their garments now, not even threads,
Yet trains still move freight, and the cities still grow,
And no one alive can know what the dead know.

I think of the heroes, the hungry, the liars...
Those voices, long-stilled, form insistent, soft choirs.
We walk on their lives, hollow steps on the planks,
I hear them, and, silently, pause to breathe 'Thanks.'