The Lonely Ghost Speaks

Each night, upon the creaking stairs
My footfalls make no sound
As, sad and slow, I climb with no
Connection to the ground.

Each day, I walk incessantly
through every room and hall,
But like the air, my presence there
Is noticed not at all.

For no one living can perceive me
As I make my way
In silent gloom, from room to room,
Alone from day to day.

I can no more be seen by men,
Nor ever more be heard,
Nor handle hence the things of sense,
Nor speak a single word.

Nor can I, with loud, tortured cries
Cause men to quake with fear,
Nor make them flee or pity me
Or shed a single tear.

I only can, with longing eyes,
Observe the world of men,
As filled with pain, I yearn in vain
To enter it again.

For though I dwell within their midst,
I’m really far away;
Cut off I stand, though close at hand,
Locked in a world of gray—

A world of mist and memories,
a twilight world of shade,
Devoid of life and love and strife
Where pallid phantoms fade.

That’s all I am, a phantom
So look quickly, ere I leave
And fade away, at break of day
With the shadows of the eve.

 

 

Winter’s Evening

I love to walk along the lane beneath the twilit skies
In winter, when the earth’s domain before me frozen lies;
I love to feel the nipping air of evening bite my cheek,
And smell the smoke that lingers there, as dying day grows weak.

How sweetly glows the western rim with vibrant violet hue
Whose final flames now lick the brim of heaven’s pastel blue,
I love this special time of year when, stripped of summer´s husk
The bare earth seems more fresh, more dear—especially at dusk!

Like fine wine chilled, the day, now pale, invites each waking sense
To taste its sweetness and inhale its freshness so intense.
The cup I drink leaves, as I sip, an aftertaste so pure,
I’m loathe to take it from my lip and wish it could endure.

Though born of gales and tempest drear which in the springtime blows
How gently now the dying year comes to a peaceful close!
Like some old man, full of life’s pith, who, altering his pace,
Moves slowly toward the churchyard with resolve and quiet grace.

So does this year move toward its end to make way for the new,
Thus may I, when my sun descends, bid my brief day “adieu.”

 

 

 

Martin Rizley grew up in Oklahoma and in Texas, and has served in pastoral ministry both in the United States and in Europe. He is currently serving as the pastor of a small evangelical church in the city of Málaga on the southern coast of Spain, where he lives with his wife and daughter. Martin has enjoyed writing and reading poetry as a hobby since his early youth.


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12 Responses

  1. James A. Tweedie

    Martin, I was particularly struck by the stanza,

    A world of mist and memories,
    a twilight world of shade,
    Devoid of life and love and strife
    Where pallid phantoms fade.

    This seems to me to be an excellent description of what, in the Old Testament, is called “Sheol;” the imagined place where the disembodied souls of the dead reside, awaiting a savior and a bodily resurrection to redeem them back into the full, blessed state of life and relationship with God and with one another. Indeed, the entire poem is a graphic expression of the pre-exilic Jewish understanding of what it is to be dead. (With the hope for bodily resurrection introduced by the post-exilic Pharisees and confirmed by the unprecedented resurrection of Jesus). I found the poem to be oddly and eerily touching, though perhaps more suited for All Hallows Eve than the season of Hanukkah/Christmas

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Well, you are quite right that this is not a Christmas poem! But neither is it a Halloween poem. Rather, I wrote it some time back after making a difficult move with my family, a period of time in which I was feeling a bit like a ghost myself!– neither fully detached from the place where we had lived before, nor fully planted in our new environment. Recently, I put this poem together with two other poems similar in mood and ghostly imagery in a trilogy entitled “Poems for a Winter´s Evening”– winter being a season associated with life´s passing and with the “presence of the past,” of which ghosts are the literary symbol. The last poem in the series brings in the theme of resurrection which you mention, which is the note of “hope” on which I generally like to end my poems as a Christian writer.

      Reply
  2. C.B. Anderson

    Martin, with these two you have established yourself as a master of mood, and I don’t care to quibble about any technical deficiencies, if any such even exist. But I WOULD like to turn your attention to a song I found very powerful in much the same way that these two poems affected me. Listen to it here:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dWRGZaHb8xE

    Your poetry is growing on me, and I look forward to reading much more of it in the future.

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thanks, C.B., for your comments and for the link to the Alison Krauss song– very sad lyrics indeed! I don’t why, but I have always been fascinated by ghosts as a literary symbol, for they evoke in a powerful away a range of moods– not only “spookiness,” but also sadness, melancholy, nostalgia, mystery, suspense, foreboding, a sense of the numinous. From Banquo’s ghost to Scrooge’s three spectral visitors to Captain Gregg in the Ghost and Mrs. Muir– there is something about the figure of a ghost that is strangely compelling.

      Reply
    • Monty

      A potentially useless piece of information . . . Robert Plant (who sung in the biggest band on the planet in the early 70’s) and Alison Krauss made an album together – Raising Sand – about 15 years ago. It’s a high-class collaboration which contains delicious harmonies.

      Reply
  3. Mark F. Stone

    Martin,

    Hi. (1) These are wonderful poems, in both content and craft. (2) It would be nice if “descends” could be changed to “descend” so as to create a perfect rhyme with “end.” Perhaps something like: And when I watch my sun descend, I’ll bid the day “adieu.” (3) In the second line of the second stanza of the second poem, after the word “blue,” I would put a period or a semi-colon in place of the comma. (4) It appears that the poems have the same format: fourteeners with iambic meter. The difference is that the first poem has the fourteeners in two lines, and the second has them in one line. However, since, in the second poem, you have a nice internal rhyme at the eighth syllable, I would consider putting the fourteeners in two lines. This would highlight those internal rhymes. For example:

    Winter’s Evening

    I love to walk along the lane
    Beneath the twilit skies
    In winter, when the earth’s domain
    Before me frozen lies;

    I love to feel the nipping air
    Of evening bite my cheek,
    And smell the smoke that lingers there,
    As dying day grows weak.

    How sweetly glows the western rim
    With vibrant violet hue
    Whose final flames now lick the brim
    Of heaven’s pastel blue.

    I love this special time of year
    When, stripped of summer´s husk,
    The bare earth seems more fresh, more dear—
    Especially at dusk!

    Best wishes,

    Mark

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      Thank you for your suggestions and your encouraging critique. You are right about the need for a semi-colon or period after the word “blue” in the second stanza. I was aware of the imperfect internal rhyme in the last couplet, but I left it, simply because it seemed to me like a fairly minor imperfection outweighed by the content of what I wished to say. However, I will continue to rethink it, because I do like to polish a poem as much as it can be polished, in order to perfect its form, yet without sacrificing content to form– which can be quite a challenge!

      Reply
  4. Monty

    Good stuff again, Martin.
    From what I’ve seen on these pages in the last few months, I proclaim you to be the current chief ‘internal-rhymer’ at SCP. And you never cut corners with your rhymes; they’re always consistently strong. Which is why you surely must heed Mr Stone’s suggestion regarding end/descend(s).

    Regarding the 3rd stanza of Speaking Ghost: would you agree that the meter could be tidied-up by simply taking the word ‘me’ from L1, and adding it to L2? As in (with suggested grammar):
    For no one living can perceive
    Me as I make my way,
    In silent gloom, from room to room:
    Alone from day to day.

    You’ll note that I added a comma after the word ‘way’; ‘coz to me the “in silent gloom” should be separated from the “as I make my way from room to room”.

    All in all: two quality pieces of work, Martin . . intricately crafted with immaculately clear diction. Well played . .

    Reply
    • Martin Rizley

      You are right that, formally, the word “me” should go on the second line of the third stanza in order to have three complete iambs on that line; I did not write it that way, however, because it looked odd to me to begin the second line with the word “me.” Perhaps that would be perfectly acceptable, however, according the established norms of classical poetry; I really don´t know what is customary in this regard.
      Thanks for your feedback, Monty.

      Reply
      • C.B. Anderson

        My advice is: enjamb freely if it serves other purposes, and don”t worry about the blow-back. Though I have acceded to requests by good editors to revise my lines on similar grounds, you don’t need to do their job for them. You are a natural writer, so just write naturally.

  5. Dave Whippman

    I agree with James Tweedie. But also, your first poem was reminiscent of the Greek shades in Hades; flitting shadows who yearn to be whole people again. An effective piece.

    Reply
  6. Dave Whippman

    I agree with James in that there is a flavour of Sheol in your first poem. . But also, it reminds me of the shades in the Greek Hades: the dim shadows who yearn to be whole people again. Effective poetry.

    Reply

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