“Southern Mansion” by Arna Bontemps (1902-1973; Alexandria, Louisiana, US; anthologist, biographer, editor, essayist, novelist; Harlem Renaissance)
– from The Garden Thrives: Twentieth-Century African-American Poetry
Poplars are standing there still as death
And ghosts of dead men
Meet their ladies walking
Two by two beneath the shade
And standing on the marble steps.
There is a sound of music echoing
Through the open door
And in the field there is
Another sound tinkling in the cotton:
Chains of bondmen dragging on the ground.
The years go back with an iron clank,
A hand is on the gate,
A dry leaf trembles on the wall.
Ghosts are walking.
They have broken roses down
And poplars stand there still as death.
When by thy scorn, O murd’ress, I am dead
And that thou think’st thee free
From all solicitation from me,
Then shall my ghost come to thy bed,
And thee, feign’d vestal, in worse arms shall see;
Then thy sick taper will begin to wink,
And he, whose thou art then, being tir’d before,
Will, if thou stir, or pinch to wake him, think
Thou call’st for more,
And in false sleep will from thee shrink;
And then, poor aspen wretch, neglected thou
Bath’d in a cold quicksilver sweat wilt lie
A verier ghost than I.
What I will say, I will not tell thee now,
Lest that preserve thee; and since my love is spent,
I’had rather thou shouldst painfully repent,
Than by my threat’nings rest still innocent.
“Haunted Houses” by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow (1807-1882; Portland, Maine, US; anthologist, lyric poet, novelist, Spanish and Italian translator; Fireside Poet)
– from Three Centuries of American Poetry
All houses wherein men have lived and died
Are haunted houses. Through the open doors
The harmless phantoms on their errands glide,
With feet that make no sound upon the floors.
We meet them at the door-way, on the stair,
Along the passages they come and go,
Impalpable impressions on the air,
A sense of something moving to and fro.
There are more guests at table than the hosts
Invited; the illuminated hall
Is thronged with quiet, inoffensive ghosts,
As silent as the pictures on the wall. (…)
“Empty Black Haunted House” by Joyce Mansour (1928-1986; England / Egypt / France; Surrealist) – from The Norton Anthology of World Masterpieces, Vol. 2
Empty black haunted house
Our steps precede and follow us
Rooms crowded with unfinished visions
Of objects beyond reach
Empty empty perverted house
Your head walled in your eyes
That burn indecently blue
Haunt us call us
Fill our mouths
Eternal inedible bread.
“Haunted” by Edith Nesbit (1858-1924; Kennington, Surrey, UK; novelist and short-story writer for adults and children, children’s psychology writer, socialist activist)
– from Victorian Women Poets: An Anthology
The house is haunted; when the little feet
Go pattering about it in their play,
I tremble lest the little one should meet
The ghosts that haunt the happy night and day.
And yet I think they only come to me;
They come through night of ease and pleasant day
To whisper of the torment that must be
If I some day should be, alas! as they.
And when the child is lying warm asleep,
The ghosts draw back the curtain of my bed,
And past them through the dreadful dark I creep,
Clasp close the child, and so am comforted.
Cling close, cling close, my darling, my delight,
Sad voices on the wind come thin and wild,
Ghosts of poor mothers crying in the night–
‘Father, have pity–once I had a child!’
“Wink” by Benjamin Péret (1899-1959; Rezé, Loire-Atlantique, France; essayist, journal editor, soldier; Dadaist, Surrealist)
– from The Yale Anthology of Twentieth Century French Poetry
Parakeets fly through my head when I see you in profile
and the greasy sky streaks with blue flashes
tracing your name in all directions
Rosa coiffed with a black tribe standing in rows on the stairs
where women’s piercing breasts point out through men’s eyes
Today I look out through your hair
Rosa of morning opal
and I wake through your site
Rosa of armour
I think through your exploding breasts
Rosa of a pool the frogs turn green
and I sleep in your navel of Caspian sea
Rosa of honeysuckle in the general strike
and I’m lost in your milky way shoulders impregnated by comets
Rosa of jasmine in the night of washing
Rosa of haunted house
Rosa of black forest filled with blue and green postage stamps
Rosa of kite over a vacant lot where children are fighting
Rosa of cigar smoke
Rosa of seafoam turned into crystal
“Recollection of an Old Spook” by Richard Edwards