If this hotel really is haunted
and the ghosts of a dozen children
persist in a space of no release,
its filmic corridors with stately molding
tailed along walls, tunnels
of a home to so many
goodly bodies, once held upon the arm
of a stranger—don’t forget me—
I’ll not fail to recall the ways
my own spirit lives here and
in the homes I’ve grown in,
opening windows, closing
in older parts of my self.
The service here
lives up to its reputation,
we’ve hardly had to lift a finger.
We’ve come here
to fill in for those who’ve left,
but the linens look new, they’ve
replaced the coffee and the soap
and I imagine that, when
the weekend is over, I’ll emerge
from this leafy, air-weighted rivertown
a walking vessel for a self
I can no longer choose to usher
abroad or leave behind.
Somewhere the children we were
are laughing, and rumpled guests
are phoning the desk
to report a disturbance.
The ocean drew back its tide to shed
seaweed along the pitted beach.
We held tight in wind, cleaved dryness in rain
In a month too cold for tourists
on a beach too loved to be a precipice,
its teeming black water a kind of reminder.
We’d leave it. How did your toes feel
in the cold, twiggy sand at night in the rain
when the person I once was told you one thing
you were ready to hear? Even the best memories
hurt in the light of decades, as time grows
upon us, withdraws, empties its waves
and speaks, refuses to speak. Inland I squinted
at that ocean hollow—our kiss in wind, our found hands.
Since then the sun has dried the dead kelp,
refined its matter among sand and shells.
Every day the waves leave new waste, the beach
becomes wild braille for someone else’s palm.
Daniel Holmes lives in Atlanta and teaches at Georgia State University. His recent writing has appeared in The Carolina Quarterly, Digital Americana, and Paste, and he was awarded a Hambidge fellowship in August of 2019.