How to Make a Ghost

“In life, only the small details
are worth weeping over.”
— Phaedrus

Here comes that old ghost again.
up from the backyard grass
like a whisp of sandalwood
also orange blossom drifting
from the corner of the yard.

The ghost shimmers back and forth
to get my attention.

It is the time I killed a sparrow
with my BB gun. Fifty years
and I don’t still know why
except I thought that’s what you do
with such a thing.

I didn’t know what death is,
that it’s always personal.
Only two events are in the world,
without exception.

The bird wasn’t finished with living
and very confused, frightened.
So was I. We met in the sunlight
and made a ghost.

There is no such thing as an unloaded
gun or a small cruelty. So we are still there,
still terrified on the razor of time because
this is what plagues and haunts us.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed


I’ve decided to post this even though, as a poem, I think it lacks cohesion. I just feel like sharing this facet of my emotional life these days. On the night I wrote this, I felt like being experimental, whatever that means. The Wasteland was rumbling around in my brain. Also Kierkegaard. And I was thinking that we can be aware of events happening to other people, but ultimately every event in life happens to me. All experience is subjective.


1 Fear and Trembling

Hurry up, please. It’s time.
The governor has set a curfew now.

I had not thought Death had undone so many.
I mean Old Mr. Death, the Old Man.
The proprieties must be observed.

He stands on a hill outside town –
the insatiable wind.

He stands at the end of the street –
dogs barking.

He stands in the door of your kitchen –
the oven goes cold.

2 The Sickness

We who were living are now becalmed
in the currents of time.

We who are dying are impatient to escape
this vessel on the wind.

Why is there nowhere dark enough for rest?
The sun is vulgar to a man who would be free.

Pray for us sinners, now and until
the Old Man comes.

3 Unto Death

Pale hands at absolute zero
then whispers in the empty rooms.

May the judgment not be too heavy
upon us.

Hoarfrost – all of the flowers in your garden
are sleeping in a mist of tears.

A million dead? Oh no, far more. So count
the bodies all night long

then in the morning, sunbright gulls
on the peak of the roof.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

How Much Love

I would like to give you a gift.
Here’s everything I can remember,
if I can find a vessel to hold it.
I imagine a mason jar
that once held Grandma’s jelly,
or the wooden bowl my brother
made in shop class,
almost 40 years ago.
How many thoughts can fit in such a space?

I ought to remember a lot of my life
but it seems that everything collapses
as it dries, becoming smaller
before it blows away.
So you should be able to carry this home.
Leave it in a place where there is light
in the afternoon, where birds can be heard
in the morning. Sometimes it will bring
shadows and rain, but often it will shine.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed


he sits up on the edge of the bed
and wonders what his soul looks like.
He’s never seen it himself, but other people do,
when he makes them laugh or causes pain.

No one will describe his soul to him,
so he imagines a green light hovering – a tiny
beacon in the air – just there in the center
of the room. It follows him everywhere,

retreating to safety when he’s angry,
looking out windows while he speaks.
He should be ashamed. So long now
since his soul was put to use.

When the moon sets and the sun appears
to lead us through another day of plague
and fear, the little light that woke him up
will flicker there and fade away.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Remembering it Now

Alright, gentle readers. Gettin’ down to it. Gettin’ serious. “Because here we were dealing with the pit and prune juice of poor Beat life itself, in the godawful streets of Man.”
– Kerouac


Remembering it Now

My bicycle is gone, the one with the banana
seat, hand brakes and handlebars
like rams’ horns, wrapped with yellow glitter tape.
It was 5 speed, which was boss in 1972.
Chased by a German Shepherd, I rode it
into a ditch. My mother rescued me.

Papa’s typewriter cannot be found,
a heavy old Royal with black
and red ribbon. No electricity required.
He let me play with it but he used it
to write letters about dogs — German Shepherds.
And dogs arrived and they were good
— his dogs didn’t chase children off the road.

Phone books are gone. Are they even
printed anymore? No need – all of the names
are lost to time and all of the time is lost
to suffering and fear. No one is even
naming the dead. I didn’t know Death
could take so many without bombs
or guns or a very good reason. Casus
belli. We’re going to need a bigger book.

Months and days and hours are gone,
disappeared in the tule fog of quarantine
and unknowing, and weeks of fear
and counting of the unremembered Dead.
The soul waits in a closet the back of the house,
with the sweaters we were wearing
when the world blew down.

All of the Kingdoms of Hope are gone,
all of the plans we had, the bright joyful
memories of time to come.
Who can remember Christmas in a plague?
How we met back in 2020, and we hugged,
hands around the table. In the kitchen,
side by side. We hoped!
We remembered a future more bright
than it ever could have been.

So any time you want to weep for all
that is gone, brothers and sisters, I’ll join you.
From hopefully safely now and here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

In a World

Isn’t it strange
to be in a world,
especially this one?

I’m in the world
with its terrible events
though I never dreamed
there could be plague again
but also waterfalls
that no one ever sees.

You’re in the world
with its beautiful elephants
so you never dreamed
there could be all this anger still
and also people who
almost never dream.

Isn’t it strange
to be human forever,
especially weeping?

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

‘You are a little soul carrying about a corpse, as Epictetus used to say.’

Marcus Aurelius

Counting the Dead

No one is talking about the Dead.
We’re just counting them.
Each day there are more and we think
it can’t get any worse, until they don’t
come back. So we keep counting the Dead.

People made memorials for the Dead
of 2001. Their names are etched in stone.
You can read them on the Internet.
At some point they were read aloud.
But that was only 2,600 Dead. .

We mourned. We wept and flew the flag
and vowed revenge. We didn’t understand
that Death is never satisfied.
We should start reading names today.
Too many Dead to carve in stone this time.

But we don’t call the Dead by name
or say what was done with their bodies,
memories, or redeemed of the time
they should have had to wait as days
of quiet life and love pass by.

We who are dying now will learn
the patience of stucco and sunlight
on glass. Some of us refuse.
There is no one they love enough
to sit in a room with their dust and be still.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed


In the distance, someone beats
a great drum, coming nearer every day.
This old rhythm we don’t recognize,
the days of plague. Those who do not
learn from history are doomed.
Like birds driven earthward to shelter
under bushes by a storm, we wait
for abstract entities to pass.
Son of man, you cannot say or guess
how long. The clock reminds us,
drumming down the hours like high
surf pounding on the rocks.

I have lived in this room for years,
beneath its stucco laqueraria devoid
of cherubim or even birds.
The days called me out into the warm
sea air, to see the intimation of islands
beyond the eucalypti and the bluffs.
Now the invitation is withdrawn;
at least obscured, contingent
on a tolerance of sorrows.
I had not thought the sweet breeze
would rise and bring such sounds
of the inevitable world.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed


I just learned that an old friend has passed away. We knew he wasn’t well but I don’t believe even he thought time might be so short. It makes me consider how precious life is. In a sense, life is a series of experiences, each of which slips into the past and is impossible to have again. And each day we say goodbye to the person we were the day before.

I’ve been working on this poem already for already for a few days. This seems like a good time to pull it out of the notebook.


Every birth is a condescension of starlight,
a grand confluence of element and intelligence.
Each arrival a litany of the life-long goodbye,
to the first moment, first face and day,
to sunsets innumerable and hurried
in silence by the turning world.
Goodbye then to childhood. Goodbye to first love,
kiss, car, first earthquake. Goodbye to the last
day of school, to the wood duck and whale,
all blankets and cold lakes, all cloudy spring days.
Goodbye to time and the stubborn way
the planet rocks back and forth forever,
creating spring and all its passionate hope.
Goodbye to yesterday and who we were,
misremembering all the possibilities.
Goodbye to our plans for the end of days
and the Nightland coming and everything
to which we haven’t said hello. Oh God!
Goodbye to dogs, goodbye to you and me.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed

“Goodbyes make you think. They make you realize what you’ve had, what you’ve lost, and what you’ve taken for granted.”

Ritu Ghatourey

Our House

Everyone I know is uncomfortable.
Everyone wants a different house,
something with glass walls
where they can be seen in happiness.
But farther from people.
Hell is other people.
A quiet house is needed, in the trees,
with clean lines and good bones.
High ceilings to let it breathe deep.
A stone foundation, a garden for butterflies.
A warm kitchen for late night suffering.
Quiet neighbors, preferably dead,
barely whispering if they must.
A kettle on the stove to exhale memories;
A kettle that won’t forget I was here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Leaf and Shadow

A sycamore leaf floats flat
in a puddle on the black street.
It turns slowly in a shadow
that’s been with you all of your life.
And nothing can be done.
Everyone cares but no one comes
to help. Step over it, go on across
so long as the signal allows
into the bright coffeehouse.
The one where the woman
plays guitar sometimes.
Find a table with good light.
Order something with hot milk.
Order warm bread.
Be benevolent with the tip.
Remember all memory is fleeting.
Forget how far you have come in the rain.
The shadow still falls on the notebook,
on every page, despite the lights
overhead and the bright conversations
of others whose children are in school,
who never saw the leaf on the broad
green tree, making shadow; the leaf
that fell and died to bring you here.

J. Kyle Kimberlin
Creative Commons Licensed

Vanishing Point

I miss you but you’re dead
and I don’t know what that means,
beyond words and their delusions.
Everything is so mysterious.
I can’t go where you’ve gone
until I’m called.
Even then, is it a journey within Being
or a vanishing point?
No one knows but we still have today
this hazy summer ending soon,
the life around us torpid and drunk
with light. Even you belong here,
Being remembered, still part
Of everything so mysterious.

J. Kyle Kimberlin

Creative Commons Licensed