Rick Bursky’s latest poetry collection reaches into the peculiarities of human relationships with emotional accuracy, charm, and a touch of surrealism. In poems that channel memories of brief encounters and long-lost loves through imagination and half-recalled dreams, Let’s Become a Ghost Story turns nostalgia inside-out to reveal the innate humor of our most intimate connections.
Let’s scare each other—it’s what lovers do.
We owe each other that much.
So why not, we’ve done worse.
Together we’re under construction.
This has nothing to do with hammers and nails
any part of our bodies can be a soldering iron.
Separate we’re the punchline to each other’s joke.
The other night I saw a woman run naked
from a house across the street.
I wanted her to be you—fearless
warm flesh steaming, glowing in a cold mist.
You can be suffering and I can be sugar
or you can be sugar and I’ll be suffering. It’s up to you.
The more we collaborate the more frightening we can be.
Let’s practice naked under the whitest sheets.
Let’s take turns pretending to be the wind,
slip out through an open window. Let’s steal things.
You steal the daffodils from the graveyard.
I’ll steal the plastic rabbit from the neighbor’s yard
and finally be good at something—that’s the scary part.
Are you frightened yet, it’s an emotion
that must be constantly relearned
like biting your tongue or mine.
“Rick Bursky’s poems are full of good news. It is that poetry still exists.”
—Dean Young, author of Solar Perplexus
“Rick Bursky’s Let’s Become a Ghost Story is a surrealist’s wet dream, full of crashing chandeliers, stopped clocks, and bodies turned to smoke and ash. Bursky uses these moments of magic to navigate the riskiest corners of the human heart: love, death, grief, and losses that repeat themselves like a spell. As Bursky says, ‘Everything I know about magic / I learned staring at a firing squad.’ In these poems we see that sometimes sorcery is what it takes to face our demons, especially on the unrelenting page.”
—Keetje Kuipers, author of All Its Charms
“In Rick Bursky’s Let’s Become a Ghost Story, the speaker and his lover constantly transform and trade positions: ‘Once, while lying on top of me, she began to tremble, / then shook violently and abruptly stopped, / then floated halfway to the ceiling. / She was playing God, or I was. I don’t remember.’ The outlandish is presented so matter-of-factly that I found myself delightedly half-believing the speaker’s assertion that ‘According to the census I am not the only person / who lists “mailbox” as their occupation.’ Bursky’s surrealism is sensical and grounded in real emotion, which allows these poems to soar.”
—Matthea Harvey, author of If the Tabloids Are True What Are You?