The city exists and it has a simple secret: it knows only departures, not returns.
—Italo Calvino, from Invisible Cities

here, the last light jazzes on
the windowpanes and the rain
tap-dances on the rooftops.
at night, the sky
is a mug of weak coffee
and the moon is cut
from an old Halloween. here—
wish you were.

home again. you can’t go. home
is where the ghosts
are. when is a home not
a ghost?
when it’s a graveyard.

other names for home: grave-
yard. saxophone. telegram.
telephone. (phone home). tongue-
kiss, tongue-tied. cat’s got
your ghost. in other words, for
ghost: penny. foghorn. tattoo.
tango. (it takes two to). dream-
quest, dream-death. so they

fog-spent pennies tossed in
a fountain, wishes to disappear,
dissipate like smoke. I ghosted
to other cities and my return
was a funeral. a
dirge, roses on a grave, I,
grave-risen. they, eyes
big as a Halloween moon.
spooked, they said.

where’d you come from? I thought
you were. dead and gone,
forgotten, all the ways there
are to vanish when the ghost-
train only goes one
way, I got my, I should
have been more.

here, we have strange
angels, and angels are strange
when you’re a ghost. or so
the saying goes. other
sayings: ghosts who wear
leather haunt together. wraith
not, haunt not. a hearse
is not a home.

here, the sidewalks shine like
pennies in the fog and
the clouds are factories dreaming
smoke. stacks of last year’s
newspapers become nests for
ghost-rats, and all the saxophones
bleat backwards, here. wish
I was.

JESSIE LYNN MCMAINS (aka Rust Belt Jessie) is a writer and zine-maker, and the 2015-2017 Poet Laureate of Racine, Wisconsin. She has been self-publishing her work in zines and chapbooks since the mid-‘90s, and has been performing spoken word across the U.S. and Canada since 2001. Her words have recently appeared in The Chapess, New Pop Lit, The Rising Phoenix Review, Voicemail Poems, and Paper & Ink, amongst other places. When not writing or performing her own work, she teaches workshops on memoir, zines, and poetry.