Ghost Story by Louise Robertson
Pudding Magazine #56

My first child pointed to the same spot
in the yard every day. Barely able to talk,
she came up with this question:
"Why baby cry? Why baby cry?"

Every day, she pointed to the same spot
in the yard. By the covered-over
well, where the boards green up and soften,
she pointed and asked: Why baby cry?

I don't know. Did the long throat
of the well swallow a child
her age? And its spirit hangs around
calling for its mother, though

this mother can't hear it.

That's the trick, mother couldn't
hear it. Maybe it's a fluke of
shadow, dampening the brick wall
behind the well.
Every day, the long arms of its
darkness reach up. Maybe that's all she
sees, not some tragedy
involving a slipped foot, hands thrown
out, and some parent who turned around
three minutes too late after pulling up one last
sad set of weeds.

But still--it's a covered over well. Later,
when she was too old to hear the baby,
her younger, just-standing brother
guarded the well, screaming at me
to get away. I never saw him so scared,
neck craning, yelling, "Get away."

I was so proud of him.
Why is there
crying? Why can't the mother hear?

Maybe it's like I
won't hear my kids when I pass,
swallowed in death's long throat.
Whose spirit drowned here?

There is nothing so bad as a hole in the ground,
covered over, silent, or open,
crying, well-shaped or rectangular
and 6-feet deep. Long throat of death,
wet gullet. Why does any baby cry:
Mom. Dad. Where are you?


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The Schuylkill Valley Journal publishes poetry, short stories and critical essays. Both the SVJ and SVJ LIT come out twice a year, in the spring and in the fall.
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