Saturday, October 17, 2009



Under an ashy moon,
we walked between
twin oaks – where just
as the street brightened
with the most delicate
of lavender lights,
we caught a face,
ghastly and ghostly,
in an upstairs window
of the old academy.

No paler skin had we
ever seen, nor eyes
like liquid coal – a
skeletal face looking out
upon us, as we shuddered
in the autumnal cold.

In that elegant space of fright,
words stuck in our throats
and our candles hissed
in the shadowy night,
burning down to nubs
in a matter of seconds,
as we stared in disbelief
at the gruesome phantom.

The black wax of
our burned down candles
dripped and hardened
on the cobbled streets -
where countless crushed
and mangled men lie
tangled through eternity.

In the shadows,
pages of prayer turned
in alabaster hands
like flames in wind,
as demons rested their
putrid chins on our
shoulders and licked
our cheeks with their
searing hot tongues.

Screams tore out
from deep within us,
but the night swallowed
up the sound, and no one
looked around toward us,
as if nothing unusual
was happening on those
scary streets in town.

And from somewhere
far, and from somewhere
near, an army started
to march – and we fell
in among the bloodied ranks
of the rebels and yanks,
who never went home,
in body or soul, from
the Battle of Gettysburg.

Was our fate sealed,
we wondered, as we
stumbled along with
the soldiers marching
through the streets.
Had we been caught up
in a eddy of eternity -
with the ghost soldiers
of the war between
the states?

Just then, a hand reached
through the marching men -
a hand of lavender light,
and set us free and on
our way through the
streets filled with tourists
laughing in the night –
all hoping for just one glimpse
of a vaporous apparition –
just one long look at a
ghostly, ghastly ghoul!

Dazed and mystified,
we walked lead-footed,
away from Seminary Ridge -
never once looking back
at the marching ghosts or
the face in the window –
of the old haunted school.


trooping with crows said...

Well, my chills have chills!

Mom, what a complete masterpiece. I was so excited to read all that was not written yet! TOO many supreme lines in this one to mention, but I loved, loved
"and from somewhere far and from somewhere near" So brilliantly described here is the presence of past. These ghosts from long ago lingering here now. What a perfectly frightful narrative. It's like, I want to have this experience, but I hope it never happens to me!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hi - You mean this hasn't happened to you??? What about the old farmhouse? :O Thanks so much for the reflections and great comments. Glad you liked it!! xo

Karen said...

This has the feel of old narrative poetry, a perfect form for this tale. Like Merissa, I find too much in this to point out, but the imagery is lovely and evokes the feel of that night as the speaker experienced it. The rhyme is just right, and the whole poem makes me want to be there - finding or not finding the ever-present ghosts of the past.

the walking man said...

My great great grandaddy lost an arm there. If found hanging round or pointing the way to safer ground I think maybe he would like it back someday.

Anonymous said...

You have an astounding command of adjectives that I admire. ;) This is wonderfully creepy and macabre and perfect for holding a flashlight under one's chin around a campfire. I've been to Gettysburg, but unfortunately it was in the daytime, so I don't have firsthand experience...

Minister of the Masochistic Truth said...

Definitely getting into the Halloween spirit with your latest pieces, eh? Great stuff! There's just something about the macabre and phantom world that never seems to get old - I love it!

It's really cool to see all the ghost walks you can take around the world. My first was in Edinburgh, Scotland, and it was fascinating. In fact, my friend who was on that walk became rather notorious for researching and doing ghost tours back in Halifax where we're from... that was in the early 1990's and I believe that he's still doing them!

Gel said...

Artful creepiness! K. You must write a book. This is terrific!

Aine said...

Thanks for the Halloween spirit!

Is that Pennsylvania Hall at Gettysburg College? I spent a weekend on campus as a prospective student. Though I didn't end up choosing Gettysburg, it sure would have been fun to explore such haunted sites after a frat party...

Anonymous said...

It's hard not to the feel the presence in some places....

Vesper said...

Kaye, how beautiful and haunting this poem is...

on the cobbled streets -
where countless crushed
and mangled men lie
tangled through eternity

So many ghosts, aren't they, everewhere?...

I often wondered what would happen if times would accidentally "intersect" and if, through such a point of commonness, we would step into another time...

"an eddy of eternity" - I must sigh at this...

This is beautiful and fascinating throughout.

Rick said...

Brilliant, K! Absolutely brilliant.

joaquin carvel said...

this feels like it all happened in a moment - the longest, most bone-chilling moment ever. i'm glad i'm a continet away from there right now.

i was moved from disquieted to dizzied to dazed in one dark & fluid motion - i love how harrowed and frenzied it gets & how it moves back into the tourists, "all hoping for just one glimpse" - careful what you wish for! also love "that elegant space of fright" - what a perfectly disturbing application - and that 4th stanza is a standout among standouts.

timely, too, for the season - and also, i think, as a reminder of the ghost-soldiers - the "bloodied ranks" - of our own day & age.

"ghastly and ghostly" indeed - i'm with troop - my chills have chills!

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Karen - just a little fun for Halloween season! Have you ever been to Gettysburg? It really is unusual there. Many wonderful things to see and experience. (other than the ghosts, I mean)
Very sad and somber there, too. It's holy ground. Thanks for the great comments.

WM - next time I am in Gettysburg, the first thing I will do is look for your granddaddy's arm.

Joseph, it's just for fun. Most of it is made up, of course. But, we did think we saw something weird in that upstairs window of the school. Thanks for the lovely comments.

Minister - yes, I agree. The scary story will probably never go out of fashion. Oooo Edinburgh - you must have seen a spirit or two there...or least felt them. In Gettysburg, so many people smell pipe tobacco or cigar smoke...when there is absolutely no one around smoking. My husband and I have gone there several times and have experienced that on occasion. Thank you.

Hi Gel...well, it was fun to write. Glad you enjoyed it. Thanks!

Aine - No, it isn't at the College. It is right in town. It was called Gettysburg Seminary, sort of a prep school for boys, I think. Gettysburg is an amazing place. There are so many places to tour and much of the original town exists pretty much as was. The battlefields are very solemn and sad, for me anyway. I appreciate your coming by.

Jason - you are so right. We have never actually seen any ghosts there, but paranormal activity seems to be very high. The ghost in the window is the closest we've come to an actual sighting. Thank you.

Hi Vesper - many thanks to you for your words of praise. Yes, there are so many "felt" presences. I remember going with Riss to see a old Victorian house one time - wow...the feelings of dread I got when I stepped over the threshold, and the smells and the sounds. Really spooky. There are so many spirits among us - I guess it is good that we don't "see" them...that often. ;)

Rick - thank you so much! Hope you had fun.

Joaquin - So happy that you got a kick out of it. It was fun to embellish on the one little sighting of the face in the window. Yes, you are right...being in Gettysburg is such an overwhelming experience. One cannot help but to get pretty emotional at many stops there. The magnitude of what happened cannot be fully realized until you go there and see and hear for yourself. What began as a skirmish in the small market town, ended with 160,000 men being involved and some 50,000 dead and just as many injured in the 3 day battle. Thanks as always, friend, for your reflective comments on the writing.

Julie said...

Kaye, you're rocking October! I was going to ask if the face in the window was "really" there. I love the narrative, too. And the ashy moon, the twin oaks, the candles burned down to nubs. I can feel the demon chin on my shoulder. And stanza five is awesome. Shoot, it's all a thrilling read. Wonderful:)

Selchie said...

Loving the creepy themes and sent me off to find out about Gettysburg, so ty)

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Hey Jules - thanks! It is fun to stay with a theme for awhile. Yeah - that face...well, it could have a been a reflection or lights or something else...but it sure looked like a face. But, then again, maybe we just wanted to see a ghost so badly. :0 Thanks for stopping in!

Sarah - Thank you so much. Oh, good! I am glad this sparked an interest in Gettysburg for you. What I find the most interesting and unbelievable about the 3 day battle - is what happened in the little town after the guns and cannons stopped firing. Gettysburg had 2,400 residents and only 400 structures - and after the battle they were left to care for 50,000injured northern and southern soldiers and that many more to bury! They were burying the dead in their flower gardens! - and anywhere else they could find soft dirt. All this during a heat wave in July. The residents were overwhelmed - all heroes of this battle, too.

Billy said...

I agree--beautiful, haunting imagery of old narrative poetry. This is a gem.

K.Lawson Gilbert said...

Billy - much appreciated, my friend.