As in Hamlet, […], everything

begins by the apparition of a specter. More precisely,

by the waiting for this apparition. […] this,

the thing (“this thing”) will end up coming.

The revenant is going to come

—Jacques Derrida, Specters of Marx

My mother never saw them, only

The kitchen doorknob turning on its own, TV

Shouting on upstairs—so sure of our family

Haunting that we moved two states over,

And she stayed fearful the thing had stowed

Away in our green moving van, packed in

Our coffee cups and family photos. Whatever

It was shadowed her and owned

Every dark room of our house. She was our

Self-proclaimed protector from the haint.

We couldn’t speak of it for pain of grounding—

You’ll call it up, she’d say. Stop it, now.

But when she was at work, sometimes

We’d let ourselves go, give in

To our mother’s lore. My brother would stagger

From the kitchen, arms out like a mummy,

and say Look, I’m Uncle Jack, moaning,

See these chains I forged in life. Back then,

My grandfather was still around, sitting

In his recliner watching gameshows,

Sucking peppermint, but I’d play him for dead.

I laid in the living room floor, arms crossed

Over my heart, still as a parked car,

Eyes closed. Who am I? I’d shout to my brother.

I’d seen dead before—watched a great aunt

For her eyelids to twitch or quiver, a finger

Tick, like my brother when he played dead. I watched

The dead aunt and felt bad watching someone sleeping

As if I’d stepped in on a private scene only a lover

Could imagine. Even then, I knew the world

Was all in-betweens—ghostly, like breath,

Like rivers, like being twelve, like holding

Someone’s hand. Still, we’d turn the lights off

And slam the door behind our mother and wait

For her shriek to see if we should

Be afraid, and scared we wouldn’t care.

A whole childhood, that summer, taking turns

Walking into walls to prove we were still alive.