You can pre-order our new Wildness Omnibus (2015–19) edition now!

Haunt

— Maya Phillips

Because there are so few hobbies left
to the dead, my father gives himself this:
his usual route, the Queens-bound F
to Continental, where he walks with the living
to work. Every day he finds a new occupation—
picks trash off the tracks, changes a dirty lightbulb,
makes rounds on the platforms,
tries to make some small use of his hands,
though no one notices
or acknowledges. Yet still he returns
every day, in his tan shirt and brown slacks
ironed with the impatience
of the perpetually late,
his keys jingling carelessly
in his left front pocket.

Twenty-plus years with the MTA
but some other guy’s got the job now,
someone younger, maybe someone
my father knows, standing in the operating booth
at the end of the platform, watching
the miniature trains on the board
carry lights through a digital New York.
And maybe the young man knows nothing
of the dead man, has no words
for a ghost who builds a home
of his absence. And if my father says haunt

he doesn’t mean the way rooms forget him
once he’s gone; he’s saying his leather chair
now in his coworker’s office, his locker
in the back room newly purged
of its clutter, or his usual table
in the break room where he sits
at 10:30 each night eating
the same steak club and chips, counting
the 10, 20, 30 more years till retirement,
cuz he’s close, he’s in the final stretch—any day
now and he’ll finally go on that vacation.


Read more from Issue No. 19 or share on Facebook and Twitter.