A San Bernardino Ghost Story by Marissa Alvarez

beginning at the bottom
of stairs to a bridge
next to the Santa Fe trainyard
great grandfather
                                never made it home that pay day
stolen wallet
stolen patriarch
                               a ghost in the bloodline

decades of drivers spotting his outline
forever crossing the Mt. Vernon bridge
footsteps quickening to oblivion
a shadow in headlights
                                          forever          disconnected

here something is always deserted
city plans to tear down
                                         for wider lanes
to move on from the decay
without a bridge
                               how far can his estranged soul wander?

only ever an apparition to me
having drifted through thick concrete balustrade
over that bridge the sounds of train whistles at night
wheels roaring over tracks built by our ancestors
brakes hissing to a stop
soothed us to sleep

a city can move on
but his scattered family
gone looking for him
found only stillness
                                     emptiness             longing
                       a generational echo                   of loss

knife and blood burned into his memory and ours
his absent spirit entwined in the riddle of ourselves
without a bridge will he                          disappear
or will a lost piece of ourselves
                                                            come home


Marissa Alvarez studied neuroscience and philosophy at Macalester College and creative writing at The College of St. Catherine. She is a Chicana poet with multiple chronic conditions who lives on Southern Paiute ancestral land with her parents (again), shih tzu sister, and three rescued cats. Recently her poems have appeared in The Southern Quill, Rigorous, Issue 3, Capsule Stories, and Anti-Heroin Chic.