Not All of Us Get to Be Ghosts

  for Dorianne

In December I watch movies about ghosts
with a woman I call mama though she is not
my mother, only a woman who is kind, this all
I require. We take breaks to lean against each other
on the porch, her sucking smoke from between
her fingers, exhaling its skirling; each mouthful
dissipating, becoming something like air. My breath’s
a less impressive phantom, fleeting silver
in the cold light. Standing there
in our small shadows, we discuss the ways
of the dead, their metaphysics, as if we were experts
by osmosis, a certain knowledge absorbed. I say I think
our ghosts become us, or at least reside in our dark
like tenants we haven’t the heart to kick out.
She says, though she hasn’t quite figured it out yet,
there are rules: not all of us get to be ghosts.

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