I am thrilled to announce that my first full-length poetry collection, tentatively titled “The Pit”, is forthcoming from Nightwood Editions in 2021! These poems deal with addiction and community set in a small-town, sub-arctic dive bar. Stay tuned for more information!
I’ve been seeing someone in the bar where I work. He’s a big guy, broad shouldered; he wears a dull yellow jacket. Out of the corner of my eye, in the mirrors behind the bar, I see him step up as if to order a drink. When I turn, he’s gone.
I’ve seen “shadows” in the hotel before, once heard a woman in heels walk across the empty room, but I’ve never experienced something quite like this. It’s not so much seeing a solid figure as it is the impression of him. It’s like a knowing that’s been creeping up on me over the last two weeks. At first, it was just thinking I saw something–closer to the “shadows” I’ve seen in the past. It was easy to write it off as my eyes playing tricks in the low bar light, maybe a reflection in my glasses. But it continued to happen, and each time it seemed like he took shape not so much before my eyes, but in my mind. The fact that it was a he. The broad shoulders. Finally, the colour of his jacket. Stepping up to the bar, forever, to order a drink. I think it would be whiskey, neat. But then, that might be my imagination taking over.
I’m not the first to see a ghost there, nor will I be the last. Parts of The Westminster Hotel have been standing since the early 1900’s. When I swipe a cloth over the worn mahogany bar top, I can’t help but think of all the elbows that have been folded there, of fingers drumming impatiently, of palms slapped down in emphasis. Of all the stories that have been traded over that bar like currency. Of love lost and found, lives mourned, long, dark winters passed in shivering commiseration.
I don’t believe in ghosts, at least not in the sense that a dead person’s spirit haunts a place. But I do believe that all the energy we put out has to go somewhere. I think it hangs around, reverberates across decades so that on a cold, quiet January morning I catch a glimpse of a big guy in a dull yellow coat step up to the bar and step up to the bar, his rough hands opening in a gesture for a glass he never gets. It might just be a glitch, like a tape skipping: he’ll loop through the bar for a few weeks and then the tape will roll smooth. I’ll never see him again. His silence will make way for other echoes. If you listen closely, you may just hear them.