tap-tap he cries and listens to your soul at night
tok-tok he sings and grins into your heart at night
chop-chop he flings and murders your light dreams at night
hear-hear he roars and hits your fucking shins at night
“you say you made a ghost of me, maybe that is true; you seem to have forgotten, though, that
ghosts are known for haunting.
neither man nor mouse nor mosquito, nor all three of them; I am the worst and best of you,
you damned fool who knows nothing yet
of man, nor mouse, nor mosquito,
ghosts (how could you, you are 23)
I am he, I am her, I am it; the ghost you made so very reluctantly –
see, it is nothing personal,
I do not want to scare you, really,
rest peaceful now, forget your angry manners,
because, man of dust, you’ll be tap-tapping and tok-toking and chop-chopping and hear-hearing someone, too, before this war is over”
This poem was written for the Young Poets Network as an answer to Keith Douglas’ “How to Kill”. Keith Douglas was an English poet who died as a soldier during the last few days of the second world war, at age 24. He wrote “How to Kill” in the year before his death:
“Under the parabola of a ball,
a child turning into a man,
I looked into the air too long.
The ball fell in my hand, it sang
in the closed fist: Open Open
Behold a gift designed to kill.
Now in my dial of glass appears
the soldier who is going to die.
He smiles, and moves about in ways
his mother knows, habits of his.
The wires touch his face: I cry
NOW. Death, like a familiar, hears
and look, has made a man of dust
of a man of flesh. This sorcery
I do. Being damned, I am amused
to see the centre of love diffused
and the wave of love travel into vacancy.
How easy it is to make a ghost.
The weightless mosquito touches
her tiny shadow on the stone,
and with how like, how infinite
a lightness, man and shadow meet.
They fuse. A shadow is a man
when the mosquito death approaches.”