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the librarian told me Beloved was a ghost story

so I stole a copy from Jared’s mom when I was 12 and read it on the floor in his room over the course of a month of sleepover nights even though I didn’t understand

so I read it when I was 15 and I got it as much as I could for a white boy who only smiled when Ms Jones told me every black story is a haunting of sorts

so I read it when I was 20 and I cried for days and called my mother and cried after we got off the phone and lay in the dark of my room throwing a tennis ball at the ceiling and letting it land on my face and my chest

so I read it again the next day and committed parts to heart but not memory

so I read it when I was 29 on a day I felt nothing inside hoping to cry but I didn’t so I took a walk down the hill and stood in the ochre light bouncing off the bricks of the apartment complex next to the community garden for 20 minutes where I decided for the 27th time that year I was too afraid to kill myself

so I read it again the next day and still felt less than I wanted to but leveraged my new coldness to lean into the rhythm of the words which was a small kind of hope

so I read it when I was 31 after an argument with a woman on a bus sitting for hours on the metal steps outside my apartment the metal pressing itself into the back of my thighs leaving a lattice bruise that stayed for days

so I downloaded it on my phone when I was 36 to listen to while I lay in bed next to my partner who once asked me why I only care about books that make me feel terrible to which I shrugged and didn’t say what I wanted to say for fear of not being understood and finally listened to it months later on a train headed south from Rhode Island on the day that she died and wrote this poem

which is also a ghost story I suppose

Zach Straus

Zach Straus peaked at 15 and is mostly held together by masking tape.

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