Doug Ramspeck

Ghost Lullaby

And if the river is still whispering of the boy,

the mother dreams that the ribcage

of years constructs the raised bridge of willows

at the water’s edge. And since once a body

formed itself from liquid and loam,

there must be a spirit in the thin skin of snow

come winter, the layering of ice, the way years

build themselves one atop the next. The ghosts

dance into this shape she understands: black waters

moving out beneath a night sky, the milk

of stars spilling from a forgotten breast.


Alluvial Prophesy

We see the old men from our windows, 
fishing in the river. This must be the place 
where sorrow goes, a penance of dark crows
flying out amid the trees. And soon it will be
winter, season of priestly winds, and the old
men will know the pilgrimage of hours. 
Surely they dream of yellow grass in an open
field, grass like the beautiful uncut hair of the dead. 
They suspect that the moon each night
is a solitary bird, its white feathers as still 
as when the ship of earth is stalled. 
And the moonlight on the river is a consolation,
a syringe filling the world with the coming cold.                           
It snows in the lungs, ice forming on the lips 
with a strange opulence of forgetfulness, 
the disappearing moon still exposing
its shoulder like a lullaby. 


Doug Ramspeck is the author of four poetry books. His most recent collection, Original Bodies, was selected for the Michael Waters Poetry Prize for Southern Indiana Review Press. Two earlier books also received awards: Mechanical Fireflies (Barrow Street Press Poetry Prize), and Black Tupelo Country (John Ciardi Prize). Individual poems have appeared in journals that include Kenyon Review, Slate, Southern Review, and Georgia Review. He directs the Writing Center and teaches creative writing at The Ohio State University at Lima.