13 Alabama Ghosts and Geoffrey
I slog through decades of decay and Alabama soil soft as a fresh grave to reach the country house where I once fought my brother, Geoffrey, for a King Vitaman magic set worth 35 cents and four box tops. He refused to share the magic with me, and in frustration, I threw a pencil which hit him, point first, in the eye. Ghosts rustle curtains, peer through the kudzu covered windows, and forgive me for breaking this wall, but these ghosts are no poetic device. The house was, and still is, haunted. Some nights, ghosts bumped about like curious raccoons. They opened drawers. Shuffled down hallways. Never frightening, just silent spectres, but this is not a poem about ghosts. Like any good storyteller, the house settles with a groan as the sins of my past loop through my mind like the reel of a Super 8 home movie. I feel badly for the pencil mark which still exclaims my guilt in Geoffrey’s eye. I remember leaping from behind a corner in this creaking house to frighten my mom, and how she burst into tears. In 7th grade, I plagiarized a poem about a flying horse from Cricket Magazine, and my Frost and Hopkins essay for Dr. Mersmann’s class is thirty years overdue. Damn me for being a playground bully and for killing a hamster by neglect. I have failed, stolen, lied, cheated, fought unfairly, and drunk away so much of my life. To those I hurt, harmed, neglected, and/or misused, please, know I am sorry, but this is not a poem about ghosts.
Matt Layne writes…
"13 Alabama Ghosts and Geoffrey" is perhaps the best distillation of the entirety of my poetry collection, Miracle Strip. It's a literal example of the ghosts and places who haunt me. Regrets and harms I left in my wake as I flailed my way through the waters of this life.
If you are curious, yes, the ghosts in that house in Wicksburg were real, at least in my head, and all of my earliest memories are rooted on that property that now carries a mythic place in the forevers inside of me.
Years ago, I was performing at one of my first poetry readings with an artist and poet from Birmingham. He and I had been friends for several years and traveled to Grateful Dead shows together on occasion. It so happened that my parents were at this poetry event, and when my father heard my friend's name, he asked if had any relation to Olive Gachet in Wicksburg. It turned out Randy's grandmother owned the haunted farmhouse we lived in down there. Some ghosts are bound to find us no matter where we go.
May all of the ghosts who haunt you be kind.
“13 Alabama Ghosts and Geoffrey” appears in Miracle Strip, released August 31, 2022. The music is “Banjo Bob's Bolero” by Ned Mudd.
Miracle Strip, a poetry collection by Matt Layne, is a unique hybrid of the written and spoken word. Each piece of the collection has an end-stop embellishment QR code which, when scanned, transforms the reader into a listener. Layne has recorded each poem, often with the accompaniment of musician and poet, Ned Mudd. The first line of the book invites the reader to “tell me your story, and I will tell you mine,” in the campfire tradition. In Miracle Strip, the reader and poet embark on an experiential journey of memories and the ghosts who haunt us.
Miracle Strip by Matt Layne is officially in print! Get your copy today!
Poet, librarian, raconteur; Matt Layne has been poking hornet's nests and looking under rocks for lizards and snakes since he was knee-high to a peanut peg. A founding member of the 1990s improvisational poetry collective, The Kevorkian Skull poets, Layne believes in the radical transformative power found in the intersection of poetry and art, and he wants you to write your truth and share it out loud. A multiple Hackney Award winning writer, he has also been recognized by the National Society of Arts and Letters and been featured in Peek Magazine, Birmingham Arts Journal, Steel Toe Review, B-Metro, and elsewhere. Look for him at your local library.
Ned Mudd resides in Alabama where he engages in interspecies communication, rock collecting, and frequent cloud watching. He is the author of The Adventures of Dink and DVD (a space age comedy). Some of Ned’s best friends are raccoons.
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Your poem comes at a serendipitous time as I too am reviewing my life's sins. Such piqueune things coming to mind. I ask why now. Why at all?