Jen Town

Ghost Theories

New research suggests ghosts
are the body’s sensitivity
to magnetic fields—

the body feels these
as a presence, a hovering.

Or, that ghosts are
the barely perceptible hum
of faraway machinery:

so much happening in the air
around us that we sense
but have no name for.

I’ve never noticed this presence
though grief has felt like one—

absence is a haunting
the mind can only barely fathom—
how a house can hold

the people who once lived there,
how the mind can hold the house

that no longer exists—walk
those rooms, construct

the low chime of a clock
the scent of remembered perfume.

My grandfather in his later years
heard voices in the next room

like a radio someone left on—
Who’s to say what the body leaves behind?

Who’s to say what form
the hum in the air takes?


Diorama Turned to Ashes

The walls, once painted
with ferns, have burned. What’s left

but a few charcoal wisps
smudged by a boy’s small fingers,

a plastic tree taken from
an unrelated toy set, melt

like a coin of green gum,
stuck to the cardboard ground,

and, here, the anachronism
of people, plastic figures

covered in ash, deformed
but still human: a man and woman

walk towards where once
the tyrannosaurus waved

his tiny arms, as if
beckoning them into the future.

What a strange world we’ve imagined
for ourselves and then, once built,

set upon. Picture it whole again, little peephole
through which flora and fauna

live out their fraught existence—
in the distance a looming
match brightens the sky.


Jen Town was born in Dunkirk, New York, and grew up in Erie, Pennsylvania. Her poetry has appeared in Mid-American Review, Cimarron Review, Epoch, Third Coast, Lake Effect, Crab Orchard Review, Bellingham Review, and others. She earned her MFA in Creative Writing from The Ohio State University in 2008. Her forthcoming book, The Light of What Comes After, won the 2017 May Sarton Poetry Prize and will be published in April 2018.

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