Ghost Supper

By David Wojahn b. 1953 David Wojahn

after Pavese

Under the trellised arbor, and our supper’s over   
in the memory I’ve found myself inside.

L not speaking, and beside us the river   
sliding softly by. Now the light will fade

to moonlit water. And in memory I work   
to make this lingering accurate and sweet.

White ouzo and her hand that lifts the grapes,   
first to her lips, then to mine. I may as well speak

to moonlight as to her. And the walls of Bruges   
light up again, a costume jewelry pearl string.

Her profile and her shawl hugged tight against the breeze   
in memory’s flammable celluloid—flaring

and gone, replaced by bread and grapes, a checkered   
tablecloth. The two chairs stare each other down,

empty now, upon which moonlight flickered
all night. The bread and grapes drip mist as dawn

carves the morning with a chilly wind,
slicing away both moon and fog. Now someone

without a name appears—first the fevered hands,   
Dustdevil quick, that grope for the food in vain.

Then the pale light shows the open mouth   
and rippling throat, white face on black water,

sparrow-flock fast, its spiraling path.
But the bread and grapes stay where they were,

their smell tormenting that famished ghost, helpless   
to even lick away the dew that gathers

on the grapes, blue fluted sides of the wineglasses.   
Dawnlight, everything dripping wet, and the chairs

stare at each other, alone. Sometimes on the riverbank   
you can sense an odor—of grapes, or sex, or memory.

It swirls through the moonlit grass. And now wakes   
someone always mute, someone without a body

weaving also through the half-lit grass.
The hoarse wail of someone who cannot speak,

who reaches out but cannot touch the grass,
and only the nostrils flare. Now the dawn will break,

late autumn cold. To crave so endlessly the warmth—
the blood-pulsing fingertip, the body to embrace,

the pungent smells commingling. To rise like breath   
and slither through the trees and tangle every branch

in this unappeasable longing, this endless lust   
for touch and smell which afflicts the dead.

The souls in the trees face the gathering light.   
Other times, in the ground, the rain torments them.

David Wojahn, “Ghost Supper” from The Falling Hour. Copyright © 1997. All rights are controlled by the University of Pittsburgh Press, Pittsburgh, PA 15260. Used by permission of the University of Pittsburgh Press.

Source: The Falling Hour (University of Pittsburgh Press, 1997)

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Poet David Wojahn b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

Subjects Love, Living, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Activities, Nature, Relationships, Eating & Drinking, Death, Desire, Realistic & Complicated


Ever since his first collection, Icehouse Lights, was chosen for the Yale Series of Younger Poets award in 1981, David Wojahn has been one of American poetry’s most thoughtful examiners of culture and memory. His work often investigates how history plays out in the lives of individuals, and poet Tom Sleigh says that his poems “meld the political and personal in a way that is unparalleled by any living American poet.”

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SUBJECT Love, Living, Seas, Rivers, & Streams, Activities, Nature, Relationships, Eating & Drinking, Death, Desire, Realistic & Complicated

POET’S REGION U.S., Mid-Atlantic

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