Dana Knott


There are ghosts
and there are humans
in this house
ghosts who were once
humans, humans
who will become ghosts

The ghosts pace
from room to room
open cupboards
and tap tap messages
looking, looking

Ghosts and humans
live together apart
each a movement
a curtain, a drift
of snow, a whiteness
each his own fragment
trying to connect

to remember, to forget
lost loves, found keys
human obits in the process
of being written
ghostly obits in the process
of being read


All ghosts are
parasites feeding
on blood and memories.
I am a ghost.

I was just
a girl, an offering
on a marital bed
to some fallen god.

He can read
my lips yet
a mouthful of blood
will unchain my tongue.

Let me speak
my grief. I gave
him a son, but he
sacrificed my daughter.

I take the hairpin
from my crown
and pierce my dove’s
folded wing.

I place my gift
in his large hands.
Where it blooms
I take a drink.


I keep feeling somehow
that soon I’m going to die.
A statue of myself stands
and commemorates
my moment of despair.
I read grief in shape
of mouth and wide stare.
I read my own obituary
and I am the author.

My statue does not belong
in any gallery, but rather
some roadside attraction
like a memorial to a crash
victim, gaudy and sad,
neglected though not
forgotten. Like a bone break
that has healed yet still aches.

Mourning Routine

Let the white wolf swallow
the sun. I no longer want
to see its light. Let the storm
shroud the world in glittering
snow. White is the color
of mourning. Let the blues
bleed out of my veins
and let ice water flow.

There are no new days
when the wolf has fed.

Blinded by white sheets,
I am a girl lost in the snow,
I am a woman of sorrow
howling at the moon.
I will not find myself
any time soon.
The wolf is fierce,
the snow deep.

Hera Ascending

My hair shorn
like an autumn field
I’ve traded my skin
for a new suit
each link of chain mail
a metallic vow

I relinquish
my past self
each bruise-
colored bouquet
each blow to my pride

Remove my brittle crown
I am a reborn virgin bride
who tosses grief
away to others who seek it

Go ahead
make love to the clouds
breathe in the sweet hay
those aren’t tear
tracks down my cheeks
but war paint

No longer blind
I look up and seek
order from the night sky
each bright pinpoint
my witnesses
my eyes

Author’s Note

I wrote these particular poems over winter months. They exude cold, snow, grief, and anger. I tend to shy away from the personal in my writing, but you can catch glimpses of me in this grouping. Mythic figures and ghosts express loss, resignation, and attempts to overcome turmoil. A child of the 80s, I discovered mythology through the film Clash of the Titans, mesmerized by Ray Harryhausen’s stop-motion Medusa and Bubo the golden owl. I read every mythology book in the Schaumburg Public Library, and I have not one but three old copies of Bulfinch’s Mythology. I hunt for more mythic books at antique stores, but I often come up empty handed or disappointed by books marked by black mold. Cold November and December are not far away, and I continue to work on my own poetry collection of Winter Myths.

Circle. I wrote this poem in my head during a drive to work on a snowy morning. The night before, I had watched the film A Ghost Story in which a ghost returns to his home; trapped, he watches his wife move on with her life and then the new occupants who move in over an interminable passage of time. I hope someone will write a memorable obituary for me. I don’t believe in ghosts.

Clytemnestra. I have great pity for Clytemnestra. It must not have been easy for her: Helen of Troy’s sister and Agamemnon’s wife. Her grief consumes her; she fixates on revenge and dreams of her husband’s blood. As a shade, she can gain form and agency only if fed drops of blood. Perhaps I need a follow-up poem to reveal what she would say after so much silence in the Underworld.

Effigy. I have reached a point in my life where I attend more funerals than weddings. I have moved beyond grandparents. Now, friends and colleagues have died, some suddenly and others from drawn-out illnesses. Neither exit is preferable. I have three boxes containing the cremains of the pets of my adulthood on a bookshelf. I don’t know why I add more animals to my household. I find it difficult to move beyond any death. I’m filled with the existential dread of my own goodbye.

Mourning Routine. This poem has mythic themes, not quite the Ragnarok and Fenrir wolf of Norse mythology. I have had a dream in which I watched the sun explode. The world only dimmed to twilight, and it began to snow ashy flakes. I wrapped myself in a blanket and waited for the end. I guess this is my way of saying that we must accept the inevitable. Intense grief disorients. How does one find her path in a snow storm?

Hera Ascending. Hera once revolted against her philandering husband Zeus; as punishment, he hung her from the sky with anvils tied to her feet. Her jealousy defines her, but after eons, she finally learns to transcend her rage and she embraces a stronger, lighter self. What a difficult task! It is so hard to let go. I’m glad to have one positive poem in the bunch. It can’t be gloom and doom all of the time.

Dana Knott lives with her husband and son, four cats, one dog, and one tarantula in Delaware, Ohio. She is the Library Director and Core Faculty at Antioch University Midwest in Yellow Springs. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in the American Journal of Poetry, Flights, Bitter Oleander, and Emrys Journal, among other places.