Until I saw those wasted hands,
brittle as chalk, I hadn’t thought
how fast the years make ghosts.
I heard them once called brawler’s paws.
For me, they were always more:
cobras, poised to strike.
But his brawling days are gone now;
I could kill him with a pillow,
if I cared enough to try.
Thin sheets press tightly to a bed
more empty than full, his body broken
like the promises of childhood.
Haunted eyes betray last thoughts
of a dim path, spiralling down.
He hopes to make amends.
“Forgiven?” he croaks,
barely there, as always,
and I’m wishing that I wasn’t.
With the last rays of day as witness,
I turn my back with purpose
and hear the silence roar.
In a late-night bar I catch my reflection
swimming in a glass of bourbon;
but I’m staring at a ghost.
First published in Writers’ Forum Magazine issue 163, April 2015 – first place