an Aotearoa poetry journal | ISSN 2744-3248

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Walking with Ghosts

at Chillingham Castle, UK

Living in town, we forget how many stars the sky holds,
how shy they are of unnatural light.
I’d like to stay and name them all, but the ghost walker
moves on—
this walk is not about the scenery.

A thin tremor of torchlight
keeps our feet on the same narrow way nomad monks
trod from Chillingham to Wooler.
Some fell by the wayside—trunks of ancient yews
bleed sadness. So heavy with memory they lie prone.
This one still bears a scar, a noose so deep
you can feel the weave of rope.

I don’t believe in ghosts.
These fields are too quiet, the darkness too warm
to be a place of unrest. The only pale figures flitting
are elusive white cattle grazing.

The ghost walker leads us indoors. In the castle,
Arctic draughts, moving shadows made by candle flame.
Steps of unseen feet in this empty building.
Small children laugh where no children are playing.
A little boy shows his face in other people’s cameras.

A little girl climbs on my lap, for comfort
the ghost walker says she never knew in life. Elinor.
Her ringlets brush my cheek. Tomorrow I’ll think
she was a dream but for tonight, I hold her
and my arms freeze.