WICCA, 1984.
By Matthew Mars


since we seem to be speaking of ghosts
and the old religion tonight
since most of us are wrapped in black
and bearded anyway
blown in by santa ana winds
lips chapped
full of collagen and blood
since we tend toward melodrama at the cusp and
celebrate standard time with scarves noosed loosely
I thought I’d tell you a campfire story
thought I’d ask for a kiss
thought I’d confess

I was just come back from texas unrequited
(janis joplin does not love me anymore)
just come in at the downtown bus station

pay attention
this is the confession part

visualize methuselah and the empty pocket
and I’m the one with the empty pocket

at least he didn’t want me to kiss him
and I have learned to forget about these things
as soon as they are finished
so no skin off my stage presence
plus he’s got a car
ford mustang 1967
deep blue
drops me on the doorstep
at billie’s house
where I meet gregg allman
on a christian holiday

gregg brought a bottle
and handed me a guitar
not that I actually play guitar
we sang for sweet melissa
not for anyone we actually knew


stacy celebrated eleven
december days
our birthday
the festival of lights
the eves
she liked pink floyd
she liked gemini women
she liked midnight rider
best of the songs we did that night

she called me ghost for my disappearances
for my balancing act
for my transparent tongue

true enough my tongue
went sheet white one day
and clear the next
I think it was from thinking
about kissing her too much
not — I’m sure — from the drugs
potions melted down
from windshields
transistor static
made over into powder and grain
151 rum

it might be that my memory
is too sharp

it might be that my friend billie is still alive
she was one of gregg’s heroin connections
she was incredibly beautiful once
she had this apartment on sherman way
she had no veins
she had her eye on stacy
not that I was actually in love with either one of them

but sometimes we’d be up all night — just tweaked
until the television test patterns begat ray charles
until ray charles begat the paperboy
edgar allen paperboy bringing on the dawn
and the allman brothers band
barely audible from the tabletop clock radio
coming off the formica at haunted house angles
ghosts already if ghosts were made of tin


and since we seem to speaking of ghosts
and the old religion tonight
I have to wonder how I will remember this years from now
as I have lately made the acquaintance
of an unusual new coven
witches without wires in their eyes
without wens
flourescent witches nesting in the light fixtures
infiltrating the air conditioners
cauldrons full of disinfectant and baby shampoo

they have offered to rinse my brainpan clean
of all clefs available to B3 and bottle slide
so that I will stop experiencing
this buzzing in my ears
every time I turn on the radio

I am skeptical though
anything can trigger my memory
the sweet reek of piss cutting
through ammonia in a bus station restroom
the salt in a kiss
certain sounds
needles scratching at vinyl
credit cards playing at razor blades
the statesboro blues — anything

coda, 2017.

It’s been forever since I last saw my friend Stacy with whom I shared a birthday and who considered me a brother and “not like that.” And by forever I mean more years now then I had been alive at the time. She was a nice Jewish girl from Northridge with gray eyes and a habit of getting tore up drunk and insisting she could drive. Once I thought I saw her ghost but it turned out to be someone else.

I think the last time I saw Billie Winters Howe was at the Burbank Airport Hilton three years later where we danced to Peter Gabriel and I stayed studiously sober while she and a certain porn star of our mutual acquaintance did blow in a stairwell. There are no extant circumstances under which I will explain how she and I and Mr. Jeremy came to be each other’s dates or why we were at the Burbank Airport Hilton that December night in the 2nd year of my sobriety. She was a ghost then, she is a ghost now, dead or alive.

I saw Gregg Allman today everywhere I looked.

Matthew Mars is a singer, writer and artist living in the greater Los Angeles area. An earlier version of this poem appears in the Laguna Poets series chapbook, Hello My Name is Aberdeen. (The Inevitable Press, 1995)