Oct 19, 2018

Today’s poem is “Phantom” by Margaret Haberman, who has lived in Maine since 1986. She spent over 20 years in Bethel and now lives in the outer reaches of Hope. She works professionally as a sign language interpreter and writes poetry in the places in between.

She writes, “‘Phantom’ began as a section of prose, written for my masters degree thesis, and was later reworked into a poem in 2016. It was drawn from personal experience following a series of four deaths in the space of four years. Since I was very young, I’ve had the habit of writing down things that people say that strike me as interesting, funny, compelling, beautiful. It doesn’t matter if they’re said by strangers, family, or friends. Pieces of the conversations I had during the period of time reflected in this poem found their way onto the page.”

by Margaret Haberman

When you were gone,
and I had written something
I thought you would like,
that would have made you laugh
if you had been there,
after I managed
to read it without stopping
then, in the silence
that followed was a phantom
sighing in my head
that only I could hear
and was mine alone to listen.
It was in the middle
or near the end or,
maybe just after—
my ears started ringing.
The doctors called it phantom noise.
Because it was elusive, for a while
I thought everyone could hear it.
Maybe it was the furnace,
the cat purring at the end of the bed,
a strange wind.
My sister said, Take meds.
If not for the ringing,
for the anxiety.
Dr. Moran said, Take meds.
If not for the anxiety for the ringing.
Deb said, It’s hormones.
My kids said, What’s wrong with you?
My acupuncturist said, Read to the dead.
But just the verbs. They’re not interested
in nouns.

Poem copyright © Margaret Haberman.