Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Ghost Word

by Cynthia Quinones


After dark,

when my husband and I

are walking home,

talking softly,

we often hear a bird

we cannot see.


Every other spark

of life has quieted or

flown away, but still

this one is calling,

his chirp like the red

blink of the radio tower

on the mountain.


Down below him

one night we thought

of a ghost word,

a secret sound to listen for

if one of us passes away

before the other.


In the din of life’s noises

it could stumble from a stranger,

or snap like a twig

in the forest,

and we would know

it as the other’s voice,

hidden; we like to believe

it is possible

never to be apart.


Yet some nights the darkness

becomes so big,

the sky so far away,

it seems every small sound

around us must be

the ghost word of one creature

trying to find another:

the growl of a train

rumbling through town,

the whisper of a boot

scraping salted ice.