Haunted Oregon

John Gallaher

Silence haunts me. I don’t have a better way to say it. I fill my day

with music. I fill my shelves with stuff I get from surplus, or find

on the road. I pick up rocks. None of it does any good. I’m still

enveloped in silence. I want you to tell me a story. I want it

to feel real. I want there to be ghosts. I want one of those Arcadia books,

sepia-toned, common type face, boxes with space for a local picture

called John Is Haunted and It’s OK. I want a complete set

of these books, one for each state, city I’ve lived in, everyone

I’ve known. Haunted Us, like the accreditation team here this week

is haunted by hard data. They meet with faculty, ask about the pursuit

of truth, because in some document the pursuit of truth is mentioned,

and I want to respond “The Haunted Series,” because when asking,

are you thinking of the truth of fact or the truth of belief?

I say that last bit, and I feel pretty pleased with myself,

but they just nod, write in their books, and are gone.

“Were they here at all?” we might ask, as the pursuit is to be haunted

as birds rise from the trees, as what hard data our haunting takes,

how I have this copy of my birth certificate that says I was born

John Gallaher. It’s a legal truth, a haunted truth, as official history turns,

so there’s this ghost birth certificate one must search for, dig up,

if one wants to know, like how you come across vacant rooms

in the woods, especially by rivers, sometimes, haunted with odd,

random bits. Once, I came across a ruined shoebox of moldy photos.

“I will carry this into the woods,” someone thinks. Cans of beans

and bits of clothing, cereal boxes, left from our attempts at ordering

the world. I came across a car once, half submerged in a river

in Birmingham. And then the hotel I book for my “meet the birth

family” trip, I find out from my birth mother, when it was

the Multnomah County Poor Farm, is where her father died. It’s on

the list of Oregon’s Most Haunted Places, as you might expect

from an indigent hospital converted into a hotel, long hallways

to communal bathrooms, dim lighting, corners. Ghosts

would have to be blind, or mostly, I read, for their eyes

would have to interact with light in order for them to see.

It plays against the symphonic conclusions we hope for,

as they appear at the ends of hallways, tidal, motioning.


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