Dear Ghosts, Poems

Tess Gallagher

Graywolf Press




80 Pages



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Fourteen years after the publication of Moon Crossing Bridge, Tess Gallagher's powerful elegies following the death of her husband, Raymond Carver, Dear Ghosts, is the long-awaited return of Gallagher's unequivocal voice. In this new collection, the ghosts of the past are conjured and communed with as part of the poet's present day: the deceased beloved, the father long dead, the mother deathly ill, the victims of holocaust, and the effects of past and present wars and 9/11. With these spirits beside her, Gallagher confronts her own illness and mortality and celebrates new love and friendship in these spare lyrics and uncompromising narratives, each punctuated by her feisty resilience and signature grace. Here is the original new work by one of America's most accomplished poets.


Praise for Dear Ghosts,

"Gallagher, a cherished poet and short story writer, evokes the power of the unseen as well as the seen with breathtaking clarity, creating metaphors so surprising, radiant, and apt that the world seems to expand in their wake. This sense of opening is intrinsic to Gallagher's new poems. Substantial yet lambent, earthy and spiritual, these are her best works in an already incandescent oeuvre. The collection begins with 'My Unopened Life,' a poem charged with fairy-tale magic as a place setting on a tablecloth acquires cosmic dimension. In another worlds-within-world poem, 'Oil Spot,' Gallagher writes, 'The door to beauty always / stands open.' The indiscriminate wounds of war are the subject of startlingly precise reflections on her World War II-era childhood and on the Vietnam War, and both life and death are palpably present in ravishing poems of Vancouver, Ireland, Romania, and Egypt. Losing her hair during cancer treatments summons up contrasting visions of the women of Auschwitz and Buddhist monks. Gallagher remembers her mother and her late husband, Raymond Carver, and finds enlightenment in birds, the moon, rain, dusk, and lilacs. So compelling are Gallagher's graceful poems, they leave the reader feeling 'rearranged from the cells out.'"—Donna Seaman, Booklist (starred review)

"Gallagher's big, emotion-rich volume is her first in 14 years: she enjoys dual reputations as an accessible, likable maker of verse about scenes and spaces in women's lives (somewhat like Jane Hirshfeld or Mary Oliver) and as the widow of short story master Raymond Carver and curator of his legacy. 'I can't help my changes any more/ than you could yours,' says a poem on the anniversary of Carver's death. There are other elegies, and poems that commemorate other friends and family among the living; outline her European, Asian and sub-Arctic travels; and pursue the lessons she draws from South and East Asian religious practices. Gallagher's own fight against cancer provides another subtext for many poems and the explicit subject for a few. She celebrates her survival while finding 'Time/ to admit the limitations of death.' The many who cherished her earlier verse will find the new work profound."—Publishers Weekly

Table of Contents

My Unopened Life
Not a Sparrow
Sah Sin
A Strode of Sky
Sayonara, Baby
The Dogs of Bucharest

Irish Weather
Brushing Fate
After Looking at Property in a Busy Irish Town
Knives in the Borrowed House
I Have Never Wanted to March
Weather Report

The Women of Auschwitz
Lady Betty
Little Match Box
Fire Starter
Lie Down with the Lamb
What the New Day Is For

Orange Sutra
You Are Like That,
The Rooster Crows
Black Beauty
Dream Doughnuts
Urgent Story

Moon's Rainbow Body
Dear Ghosts,
Emanation of the Red Child
Cairo Moon

Across the Border
She Wipes Out Time
The Violence of the Unseen Forms
Oil Spot
In Lilac-Light

Water Walking
I Asked that a Prayer
The Red Devil
Sky House
Buddha Alcove
With Setouchi-san in Kytot
Walking Meditation with Thich Nhat Hanh
Sixteenth Anniversary
Death's Ink

Reviews from Goodreads



  • Tess Gallagher

  • Tess Gallagher is the author of eight volumes of poetry, including Dear Ghosts, Moon Crossing Bridge, and Amplitude: New and Selected Poems. She is also the author of Soul Barnacles: Ten More Years with Ray, A Concert of Tenses: Essays on Poetry, and two collections of short fiction, At the Owl Woman Saloon and The Lover of Horses and Other Stories. She lives in Port Angeles, Washington, where she has completed the introduction to No Heroics, Please, the first of two volumes of The Uncollected Works of Raymond Carver, edited by William Stull.