Bamboo Ridge Press presents a poem by Cathy Song

Bamboo Ridge Press is excited to present a poem by award-winning author Cathy Song, a native of Hawaiʻi whose roots intertwine with the cultural tapestry of the islands.  In “The Man Who Claims,” Song draws inspiration from recent political events, intertwining the supernatural with the political landscape.

The Man Who Claims

The man who claims he can see ghosts
lets it be known that he alone
can fix it.
He shudders with aversion,
offering a sampling of protection,
mumbling prayers.
The man who claims he can see ghosts
tells tales about those who would harm us,
feeding on our unhappiness.
Look how they loiter,
thirsty and shiftless, woeful as tumbleweeds.
His is a desire to fence all of us.
The man who claims he can see ghosts
stirs the winds of ill-will,
stale as the breath of a court eunuch,
leaking secrets,
nuggets of misfortune,
gossip for future ammunition.
He stages the illusion in hypnotic procession,
swaying chandeliers of incense
to mask his own stench.
Oh the things he can see—
dropping predictions the way
he dips cake into tea—
pronouncing dead on arrival
the undeserved,
gripped by rigor mortis of their own bad luck.
We sigh—so glad it isn’t me!
Pretender of mercy, he sprinkles prayers
like holy water without getting dirty.
(stanza break)
The man who claims he can see ghosts
boasts that he has been given a mandate from heaven
to sweep the land of vermin.
The toll it takes leaves him no rest.
He calibrates for effect the burden,
appears for our sake spent.
The man who claims he can see ghosts
swoops down on the elderly.
They hand him life’s meager savings.
He profits from disaster,
sniffing through wreckage, carting away the repossessed.
In each possession he polishes his reflection.
The man who claims he alone can see ghosts
writhes and groans and imitates
those stuck in the unspeakable realms of hell.
He calls forth the entities
that have set up housekeeping,
asking volunteers to submit to a thorough cleansing.
We step forward,
unable to resist his theatrics—
grasping, gushing , so willing
to be under a spell.
His compensation is our devotion.
We rush to carry his throne.
BR Press Hawaii

Bamboo Ridge Press is an independent non-profit, tax-exempt corporation and is supported through book sales, subscriptions, private donations, and grants from Hawaiʻi State Foundation on Culture and the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts, Hawaiʻi Council for Humanities, and others. Your generous contributions and support are welcome and may be tax-deductible.

Monies raised help Bamboo Ridge Press continue its mission to foster the voices of our people through new publishing projects, educational programming and community outreach such as workshops for adults and youth, and free public readings. It will also help to digitize the Bamboo Ridge Press Archive, which will preserve four decades of local literature and provide free and open access to issues that are no longer in print.

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