A Village Ghost

By Duane Scott Cerny

I ascend the stairs, my footprints missing.
I spook the cat, amused by her hissing.
Dogs drop their tails or abruptly stop pissing.
Birds flutter fast and away as if missing.

As for pesky handrail dust, I leave but a trace …
A finger, a hand, curious squiggles out of place.
I float up flights, stairs alight beneath my grace.
Not yet do I reveal the haste of my pace.

Who might I be, of decades gone …
Of famous West Villagers plotted to lawn?
Or obscure folks simply tagging along;
So long cast the shadows. So long.

What of Aaron Burr, his daughter, and Poe?
Most ghostly known as: “Fiend, Fine Philly, and Foe.”
The famous went, as most Villagers go– both fast and slow.
Appear, then vanish, like a warm summer’s snow.

Stand beneath Stanford White’s arch, grand:
Imagine the pistol in his killer’s jealous hand.
Imagine the shots as they silenced the room, the band.
What tune did they offer as his afterlife spanned?

20,000 bodies lie under Washington Park;
(100,000 more if we all glowed in the dark).
Unknown, but not unloved, death still cannot spark
A million memories buried, nary a single grave mark?

The dead aren’t the lore of a distant yesteryear:
Their endings on a perpetual spectral plane or obscure sphere.
Death is a circular checkout line, and you’re your own cashier.
Let the funeral host make his final toast: “To cherish or to cheer?”

A fellow spirit told me once: “It’s not bad being dead.
Whether run down by cobblestoned horses, or a vehicle instead;
Or drowning in the Hudson, or splayed out on your bed.
It’s not the dying that will kill you– It’s the things you left unsaid.”

If I had a breath to catch, I’d be nearly five, six floors up.
How the living do this daily is beyond me, Buttercup.
Be sure to give your friends a friendly ghost’s “heads-up.”
For children, stairs were child’s play– but now you’re all grown up.

For you, the decades passed like a fast-moving train, yes?
You stole kisses in the dark, made love in the rain– such a mess!
Youth fell away, never a single age to stop, retain. What’s best?
You move through time itself; you see– opposites do not pertain to test.

I reach the penthouse door, gliding through the wood.
I’d have come down the chimney, though that’s often misunderstood.
I am visiting a place I best explain, I should …
It’s where I lived and died, you see, it’s where I stand and stood.

Before me came tenants of prose and dance and art.
Before you came the brilliant, the tattered, the not-so-smart.
I am probably the latter of the three, a heart
No longer beating, but still snagging my bit part …

In the history of my haunting, this structure old and strong.
I daily make this journey, up the stairs I move along.
I catch you when you’re humming a lost, forgotten song.
I watch you through your mirror and wonder– where must I belong?

Under rooftop rafters is a simple servant’s room.
Might I’ve been a worker here, I trust, I forget, I assume.
Fogged-out skylights diminish the dark like a sky-high tomb.
A six-floor walk-up for a brideless bride, a groomless groom.

Hot coffee whispers to the stale bread: “You’re soon to be some toast.”
Village B-list bars pack C-list stars, all schmoozing up the host.
But I will not appear in the camera’s flash of flesh, or on some IG post.
No, I’m living out the best of death– Yours forever, A Village Ghost.

Duane Scott Cerny is an American poet, humorist and vintage dealer, and the author of the best-selling memoirs Vintage Confidential and Selling Dead People’s Things. He resides in Chicago, the West Village, and on uncomfortable seating between. Contact: ThanklessGreetings@yahoo.com