Dear Ghost

Today I placed a coin under your tongue
and we rode the ferry together

not across a lake or poison river
but through a strait, into the fogged sea,

until we reached the island where we once
kayaked, drunk on summer. As we strolled

along the main road fettered with orange
construction cones, I read the warning

sign—loose gravel—nudged your spectral ribs, asked,
what jerk is slut-shaming rocks? Your laugh

never came, even when I spotted fresh
oil a block later and placed the blame

on its smart mouth. You offered no chuckle,
no howl, no hint of your voice, did not

join in with the obvious quip: it’s crude.
You refused a smile, even a smirk,

just lurched your shadowy limbs beside mine
to the restaurant where I ordered

the habanero salsa that gives me
heartburn and is your favorite, though

today you ate not a drop on account,
I assume, of the coin in your mouth.

At dusk, I brought you to the western shore
and watched the sunset as you’d taught me

years before, tilting my head to the side
so the horizon divided, stripes

of green, pink, violet, each their own distinct
delight. You remained upright, thousand

yard stare affixed to a gull gone almost
still in the air or to a low cloud

or to another ghost I could not see.
In the dark, I brushed each trace of sand

from your phantom face, walked to the shifting
space where water lapped at the land, dipped

my hands in its bite. I left them to numb
as far suns populated the night.

When I lifted a raw, dripping finger
to the binary star hovering

above us, I waited for you to boast
about my eyesight, how spotting this

pair, their twinned light, might once have destined me
for archery. The sea reached and left

the beach. I listened. I watched the two stars
bound in orbit around each other

swim out of focus, blur to a single
glow, a lone body, an untrue view.

Jennifer Perrine is the author of four books of poetry: Again, The Body Is No Machine, In the Human Zoo, and No Confession, No Mass. Their recent poems, stories, and essays appear in The Missouri Review, New Letters, The Seventh Wave Magazine, Buckman Journal, and The Gay & Lesbian Review. A resident of Portland, Oregon, they co-host the Incite: Queer Writers Read series, teach creative writing, and serve as a wilderness guide.