I don’t believe in spirits but I believed in the spirit
of my first unborn daughter because I saw her

framed by the blue gray screen, a face with expression
and a body with movement. What else constitutes

a spirit if not those? My wife’s great aunt Julia
pulled onto route 17 in Murrell’s Inlet and into

the path of a white pickup truck; she was flown
to Charleston not by angels but by helicopter

and when we saw her she was still alive
but I knew whatever was Aunt Julia was not there

and I resented when a hospital chaplain came in
to pray with us over her. Couldn’t he see that

her spirit had already fled or been knocked out of her
by four tons of steel? Spirit as more than consciousness

or less, as essence, a vector of character even before
experience presses its thumbs into your clay, a vector

which I recognized by its absence in Aunt Julia
having seen it preside so often over a cup of tea. But of my daughter’s

spirit I cannot claim the same familiarity. And how
did I feel it was with us that painful night

flashing in the air around our grief
as panicked as we were, the three of us sure

there was some solution, a way to get back
to the world just before that evening?


I don’t get visits from spirits that often. Aunt Julia
has never come back to have tea or hoot her

wise southern laugh with me in a kitchen of my dreams.
I’ve not once seen the face of my unborn daughter and

on occasion I think if she had not left us that night
the three who came after her would never have

existed. And who then might have? Because I don’t believe
in spirits I have even discounted visits from the only

two to keep up with me, my first pet Tuna Cat
who suffered much before his death and my poetry teacher

Archie;  they last came to see me together. Archie had a new place
just under the earth and though the floor was all dirt

it had a kitchen and everything. And Tuna, sitting
on the counter. “I like it here, Jeff,” Archie said to me,

and I think, I think he meant it.

15 thoughts on “Spirit

  1. robert okaji

    There’s much weaving throughout this poem – loss, regret, the very question of essence, culminating in a resolution (of sorts). Beautifully done. As your old professor wrote once, “in nature there are few sharp lines.” This does not preclude clarity in the blurred edges, which I find and admire in your closing (both the directness, and the doubt) “and I think, I think he meant it.” Gave me chills.

  2. S.C. Hickman

    In those few words “they last came to see me together” the warmth and humor of your acceptance came together. I mean what the heck else do we have but our memories of creatures great and small in our lives? And, you, Jeff made that little difference that makes it all worthwhile… you brought your friends home! thanks for the grace under pressure -as Hemingway said… for such clarity and reserve and poetry!

  3. Chris

    It’s good to see Archie and Tuna Cat here. I can hear Archie saying “I like it here.” Beautiful poem, Jeff.

    1. Jeff Schwaner Post author

      Hey G Sidekick! Down in NC and Archie just found his way into a Mei Yao-ch’en poem set here in his home state. Have yet to visit Whiteville, his place of birth, but may check that out this week.

  4. Chris

    Since they’ve altered the Temple of Zeus I wonder if Archie’s ghost has trouble finding a cup of coffee. Ghost coffee is free but you have to find the right cafe.


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