Winner of the Cave Canem Poetry Prize, selected by Major Jackson
The stub of your left leg dangles
as I hold you up, my hands inserted under your arms
like a child. You are complaining about the itch,
the burn; scratch the ghost of your calf and heel.
—from "Scratching the Ghost"
Dexter L. Booth's ruminations on loss in this award-winning debut are rooted in a time past but one still palpable and persistent. Here are memories of love lost, family mourned, a father absent, ghosts of hometowns and childhood. Here too is a "Short Letter to the Twentieth Century" and, finally, a "Long Letter to the Twentieth Century," as if across this collection the poet is mustering up the force to speak back to history.
"In Dexter Booth's Scratching the Ghost, a cracked egg means the universe is splitting, the slap of a double-dutch rope is a broken-throated hymn, and splitting a squealing hog is akin to lovemaking. These are poems loyal to their own intrepid logic and reckless plausibility. Yet, lest the reader get too giddy in a fun house of mirrors, here, too, are the melodic laments and remarkable lyric passages of a poet who acknowledges the infinite current of melancholy that underlines his journey." —Major Jackson