What If Ghosts Exist
(For my Gurudev Thomas Lux)
By: Vivek Sharma
Sometimes I see shadows drift
past my elbows. As if ghosts exist!
I am not superstitious, but potatoes
turn in my stomach as my eyes insist
they saw what I saw. I ignore my fears.
I trust my textbook wits, and dismiss
the tiptoeing humanoids.
My grandma's father was an exorcist,
knew the chants to still,
incite or drive out vagrant spirits.
Raving men dragged up the hill
revealed to him, like ventriloquists,
secrets that ailed them. His skill
lay, villagers say, in listening.
Like my father, I sought to be rational.
Pa, the first to seek a Western education
enrolled in a college forty miles away.
In his student days, on many nights
father walked miles alone, through the wild
along pyre-lit riverbanks: never saw a thing.
I wanted to be fearless and firm like him.
Was I six or eight? October or December?
Don't matter, those visions I still remember.
Each night, ma woke up my sister and me
for a preventive pee-pee. That year
I'd scream and hide under the family quilt.
I recall I saw an old man, long-haired,
white-beard, white dress, glide towards me.
Ma's pundit granduncle delighted in my nightmare.
"Dear child! That Grand Old Man is Narsingham.
The half-lion, half-man God, your Pa's clan God!"
Ma treasured the diagnosis, for the visions showed
that the God watched her boy. The granduncle
wrote down a prayer and wrapped it in a locket
we kept under my pillow. That talisman
stopped my nightmares. I saw my Ma's faith
triumph over Pa's science. My father submitted
that the episode mirrored my WWII hero
grandpa’s tall-tale. Grandpa was twenty, in infantry,
when his battalion began looting a Burmese town.
He scaled a temple's dome. Gold dazzled his eyes,
when 'Stop' a voice called out in our dialect.
'Gopala, what do you think you are doing?' said
an old man, longhaired, white-beard, white-dress.
Grandpa climbed down, as if under a spell, in a daze.
Before he knew, the Old Man dissolved into the haze.
My grandpa and I never met, and yet... and yet...
As if ghosts exist! What makes Gods eternal?
Do you also see shadows drift past your eyes?
Vivek Sharma’s first book of verse, The Saga of a Crumpled Piece of Paper (Writers Workshop, Calcutta, 2009), was shortlisted for Muse India Young Writer Award 2011. His work in English appears in Atlanta Review, Bateau, Poetry, The Cortland Review, Muse India, among others, while his Hindi articles and verses appear in Divya Himachal (Hindi newspaper, India), Himachal Mitra and Argala. Vivek grew up in Himachal Pradesh (Himalayas, India), and moved to the United States in 2001. Vivek is a Pushcart nominated poet, published as a scientist, and lives and teaches chemical engineering in Chicago.