1857 c/o Lenni Sanders

He materialises, moans something like:

toss krilled !
          loss filled !
                cross tilled !

The ghost:
an affronted, podgy man in his late 50s, early 60s
with the face of a primary school football coach.
After his waist in a neat white shirt, he dwindles
to a see-through wisp of a pointed tail.

He unfolds a piece of parchment.
It hovers in the cold air between us:
a crumpled portrait. A pale woman's
narrow, serious face with floating drifts
of dark brown hair.

The ghost of Auguste Comte is telling me
(my young one!) to kneel like I never did
for god and pray in a purer meditation:
share all my sins without any fear of hell.

He says (his voice clearer every second, the tone
of someone giving instructions on the assembly
of new flat pack furniture in his living room)

Clothilde. Pray to her. In the religion
I made she is Virgin Mary-adjacent,
Virgin Mary-equivalent. I loved her
and she died. Tuberculosis.

(It is not raining in the dry, sharp moonlight.
The small birds of the night make their noises
in the rustling branches.)

My enfant, how would you like it
                                          if there was a new calendar
and every day, you celebrated someone who invented
something clever and mechanical with their hands
or sat for hours dreaming in equations while clouds
split, collided and disappeared overhead
in the changing sky? My fast longlegged one?
                                  My real living boy?

I strike a match and hold it up. He trembles
like clingfilm in the orange glow. I ask him
what about Christmas time
or Hannukah or Eid al-Fitr?
                                         We like them.

He winces. He says it's not about having a good time,
my spring-heeled son, it's about being good. He asks me
if I have any background in science.

I shake my head. He drifts closer.
He says aren't you, actually, in fact, a girl?
My young one, so it doesn't matter!
Just be virtuous always, and obedient.

He pats my hair with a snaily hand. Have you
ever thought about killing yourself? I tried once
from a bridge. I hung on for another thirty years
and that's when I did my greatest work.

Goodbye, my bébé, and take care!
The parchment falls to the ground.
I roll it up and stuff it in my backpack.

When I get home, it's creased even more
so I iron it and pin it up. Clothilde smiles
like an actual saint from above the washing machine.