DARING


         Am I willing to believe what I saw, or even to tell you? The dead
         on the street, smiling ghost of the friend who was not my friend,
         the man who introduced me to young death, to strangers’ grief, to
         the lousy importance of chance in a lifetime, the smiling pitted living
         face of the man, smiling, walking by me, in the other direction. Identity
         given away in the quickest glance, certain, but brief enough to bring
         doubt, doubt enough to allow skepticism. Certain identity given away.
         My walk had been his, the young, alive, despairing and celebrating
         walk up the avenues—far—beyond youth even, just living and
         walking up the avenues, and then he went to death and I, wallower
         in the soil, digger of any kind, I stood up and took his place.
         Impossible! The ghost on the street, the hollowed smile, and there
         were Keith’s eyes on Keith’s face on the body of his ghost walking.
         He turned toward me, met my eye, and smiled Keith’s smile.

         And I am not the first one. Examples of the supernatural rise like heat
         through the masses. Some scientists, cynics have been converted.
         We the believers, the heretics of secular culture, telling ghost stories
         of murder and plague. The atheist, the poet, I am willing to become
         something else. A spiritualist, touched. Myself plagued with questions—
         or guilt or self-doubt. Who sees what I see? Who meets the living eye
         of the dead on the street and holds it, returns the smile? Only the open.
         What am I betraying, a further search for meaning? Some kind of
         unhappiness? Keith looked at me taking that same walk we once had
         made together—what seemed to Keith in illness a long walk—and
         smiled to me. Do the dead come back to smile on us? To mock us
         with a smile? Do they smile in anticipation, or in glory? And I lingered
         just beyond where he passed me. Could I look back—admit to it here? I
         walked farther, looking somewhere else. I looked back and he was gone.



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