He’s there, old Bill, my father-in-law –
grey hair round a bald pate – sweating as he strives
to pass me – wearing shorts and a t-shirt, nothing
like he ever wore when he was still alive.
And there’s Asbo, my cat; grinning in a way
his face could never grin when blood
pumped round his frame; displaying stamina
he never had. As if some god
had re-cast them in pixels, Nintendo-ised
their forms to weave them still into my days.
Old emails, not deleted; texts kept; the Facebook
ghosts who linger, waiting to degrade.
As if a part of them still breathes.
They never change, imprisoning the past
in crayon colours, blanding out the flaws,
the errors, saving some of them from being lost.
There’s Anna, whom I haven’t seen in years –
She’s nicer here; her smile more sweet, more kind.
And there’s the man with whom my niece once lived
before she left him for his friend.
And Dave, my husband’s pal from Huddersfield;
my best mate’s kids are jogging through the farm,
and there’s the friend I haven’t spoken to in months;
and there’s my sister’s dog. All coming home.
These virtual friends, these avatars, these fakes –
who were inspired by flesh, but never swear
or cringe or weep or scream – still squeeze
a jolt from deep inside my gut as they appear.
Louise Wilford has been writing poetry and prose since childhood and has had poems published in a variety of literary magazines including Agenda, Acumen, South, OWP, The Stinging Fly and Pushing Out The Boat. She has also won or been shortlisted for numerous competitions including the National Poetry Competition and the Templar Poetry Pamphlet Competition. She works as an English teacher and A Level examiner, and lives in Yorkshire. She is currently writing a children’s fantasy novel.