I was hunting ghosts with Keats and Shelley
behind my childhood home, in the alley.
PBS found a torn magazine page
with a woman’s hand. It was pale and strange
–the hand, I mean, not the smudgy paper
–like Shelley’s own–but more on that later.
Jack, the failed doc, took a gander at her
and diagnosed ectoplasmic matter.
–It’s the Spirit of Hexadecimal
Booty, shrieked P, shining in this dismal
place to guide us back to the World of Forms!
–Morons, I said, in no uncertain terms,
There’s more haunting in this whiskey bottle
than that scrap of an underwear model.
–Underworld, you mean, said Keats. Shelley’s right,
for once. It’s time to go. Turn out the lights.
Shelley took that wan hand in his, and sank
into the page, leaving a sudden stink
of dead marigolds behind. –This is farewell,
said Jack, and took his turn–I couldn’t tell
whose paw he grabbed, the dame’s, or Percy Shel-
ley’s–and left me alone with the rubbish.
I should have known John K and Percy Bysshe
were spooks themselves, just bookish memories.
I said as much to Blake, and he agrees.
This is my first attempt at a barzelletta. The technique is deliberately bad, but I don’t know if it works. It’s written in 10-syllable couplets (one triplet) with (mostly) off-rhyme.