“Great Caesar’s Ghost” by Erik Campbell

Erik Campbell


I was on my third drink in my mother’s basement
because it was Christmas and my father is dead

and took with him the plural possessive
of the basement and the house above it.

He was so tired before the end
that he spoke only in Freudian slips.

He painted houses and sighed a lot before
he died, and my older brother who is clever said

if you divided up his sighs you would have words
but all the words would be a synonym for “sigh.”

And when he died I remembered something
funny he said at a restaurant one night:

“I bet you Caesar would hate his salad.”
I remembered this and whenever I read

a menu, I think of Caesar, pissed
that the Greek salad is superior

even though they were punks. It happens
like this. A man becomes a salad joke,

becomes drop cloths in the basement draped
over an old bed frame. The drop cloths

become abstract paintings I can squint through
and finally sigh to, because a man can’t fail

a Rorschach test, even if he’s dead
drunk because it’s Christmas and cold.

from Rattle #37, Summer 2012

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Erik Campbell: “I read and write poetry to remind myself that I have a soul that needs a periodic tune-up.” (website)

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