ghost therapy

I dreamt
I was in hospital, sent
to see a patient
admitted that evening
a screaming
scared of
I said it was certainly the lesser of two evils
because it’s either a jab or a silver bullet
so he grabbed the emergency cord to pull it…

but then I opened my eyes
and to my surprise
saw my dead dad
ludicrously clad
in the big black cloak he always had
stagily wreathed in thick grey smoke
waving with boney bonhomie
from the foot of the bed in front of me

Alright son? he said
nodding his head
grinning so broadly
I was inordinately
worried his lower jaw
would pop right out on the bedroom floor
‘We’ve got to stop meeting like this!
but it’s another full moon so I couldn’t resist…’

I sat up
plumped the pillows and backed up
as he worked his cloak and flapped up

‘DAD!’ I said
as he hovered next to the bed
‘I thought when you were dead
schtum – that was it
not all this ghostly shemozzle instead’

‘I know!’ he grinned
‘but turns out when the ol’ body’s binned
the essence carries on regardless
don’t be so heartless
you can hardly
blame me
anyway I’m still a trainee.’

‘It’s been nineteen years!’ I said

‘That’s nothing when you’re dead,’
he shrugged
‘But hey – it’s hard for me to judge’

I sighed
smoothed the duvet over my thighs
‘Sorry I was snippy
but it’s just a bit tricky
when you were alive you were so
I don’t know
buttoned up?
now you’re dead there’s no shutting you up.’

‘It’s true’ he said
‘I never felt so alive now I’m dead
but you see
the family meant a lot to me
I’m sorry I didn’t get to say how I really felt
but I guess that’s the hand your ol’man was dealt
my dad was a drunk who gave us the belt
so we grew up quiet and self-contained
which maybe explains
the strange restraint
but who knows? a psychotherapist I ain’t’

We chatted awhile about this and that
metaphysics; whether there are cats
and dogs
in the afterlife – or not;
what he thought about climate change;
whether he could arrange
to smuggle me over
so I could look around and get some closure
‘It’s not me it’s the paperwork,’ he said
‘It’s more straightforward when you’re actually dead.’

Just then we heard
a chorus of birds
raucously squawking just outside
a certain sign that dawn had arrived
and I reached out and shook his metacarpals
cold as a hand of wire-strung marbles
and despite all the smoke
the skeleton chic and the bullshit cloak
I have to admit I felt quite choked
when he finally twirled and quickly left
unexpectedly just as bereft
as nineteen years ago this June
when they switched him off in ITU

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