How the Lonely Man Overcame his Ghost
Loneliness found him
whether he was by himself
or in a gathering of two or more.
It was the cold air
that snuck under his pant legs;
tickled like an ice cube
that a pretty girl might have slipped
down the back of his shirt
at a party he’d never attended.
It was the store clerk that nailed him
when he wanted just to browse,
try on a hat, open a pocket knife.
It was his bowl of cereal,
his winter coat, his goodnight kiss,
a note scribbled in a foreign hand.
Loneliness was the girl standing
at his side as he botched conversations
in some language that used
his same words, but different;
like pencil tracings that do not quite
match the things traced.
One day, he noticed that the veil
between him and everything else
was the dress that loneliness wore.
If he undid the weave, he could touch
the deepest part of her; learn
what she wanted from him.
One night, determined to find out,
he gave in to her secrets. Next morning,
she was nothing but a warm dent in his bed.
He forgave himself this indulgence
and began to fill the hole she’d left behind:
a clod of earth, a debt paid, some daily bread.
He was lonely for her from time
to time, after that. But in the end
that was better than being lonely for no one.