Haunted by Us

Resurrections in July

The Cathedral Basilica of the Immaculate Conception had been under construction for three years. The spires of the church, half-shrouded in frayed tarps, haunted my thoughts. One morning in July, the tarps waved away, revealing two shingled spires in their entirety. Separate and rigid. Blood sharp. Pricking into. The scaffolding that had held the buttresses and pillars had vanished. The church glowed under pulled apart clouds.

We broke up that same month. I moved out.

Fresh paint and linoleum stewed and hovered with the heat in the bare walls of my new renovated studio. Empty redesigned smells. The space was filled for months with my mind.

On the first night

there were piles of dark.

Only slivers of orange street light stretched and ebbed through the windows with the passing of cars. The corners flecked with blinking orbs. Forehead kisses and hot showers and your hand beating into mine in the car. Furniture now navy shadows. So many dinners across from each other. The ceiling fan shook like it would spin out. The chain pull moaned in soft clatters and twists.

I held onto the sounds from the street as a measure of safety. Counted my breaths on a tear-soaked pillow, until I finally fell asleep, missing you into

Dream and crests of wind woke me. There was a translucent body from before. My throat pulsed and kicked.  I scanned my possessions and my legs and the floating orbs on the walls of this new apartment. Spirits from the past. Turned on the lights, pulled my knees in, shedding liquid, staring at my phone. Bewitched in milky blue light. I forgot when the sun came up, and when I fell back into sleep.


Your mother and sisters visited me days later in dream. Concern and joy wrinkled your mother’s face. Your sisters smiled liked dolls at me. Their blonde wisps of hair blowing in bits of sun. These women all said they were sorry about before

a woman’s long silhouette. Breasts and hips and hair. That same sun hit her jaw. That chip in your tooth that told me you loved me flashed in my eyelids. You couldn’t wait to show the silhouette or something better to me.

I rose half asleep. Footsteps walked outside my apartment door that I heard next to my bed. There was the ghost of a little girl who had lost her father and hung herself. And a woman who moved here and went mad. People leaving and returning. Our ghost wept in my arms. Your ghost spread in every nook. My life as a ghost. Stuck in a memory and moving through walls.

Back in the dreams, your ghost kept fucking someone else in front of us. I thought about fucking someone else and a ghost. The navy furniture watched me and the people paced by my bed. I touched myself and heard your voice. Her silhouette above me traced in stark light.

Soft demons, a prayer

Days passed and I grew more used to the myriad of apparitions. Multifolded reveries flashing in a third eye.

Out at a bar one night, my friend told me she saw you a few weeks ago. That knowing drove a screwdriver in my rib cage, twisted me violently, and then another ghost was birthed inside of my body.

My ghost couldn’t help herself, asking about you. Was he with someone? How did he look?

She cried over my cocktail.

I tried to pull the screwdriver out but it was stuck so far in. I choked on the edge of my tears. Another drink. Another. We left in haze and shortness of breath.

I walked home from the bar and bummed a cigarette from a gentle Satanist couple that lived in my building. Every garment each of them wore had the word “Satan” and a pentagram on it. I felt protected by their soft eyes. They said they were moving out next month, and I almost asked them to exorcise the screwdriver before finishing the cigarette.

When I stumbled into my apartment, I passed out from possession. Thirst woke me. I stood and wandered to the kitchen to pour myself a glass of water. In the smoke of partial slumber, a ghost wavered in the corner near the kitchen table. I blinked it into the floor under the cabinetry. I blinked again to find where it went but all was still. I fell asleep dreaming again about you, intact and whole without my ghost.

Cup of a new covenant

I fucked the first different person. A nurse. Younger than you. He smelled of roasted, sweet garlic. I kept trying to run my fingers through his hair but it was cut so short. Ghost hair. He said my haunted apartment was like a dorm room. I asked him about his childhood and he turned his back toward me in my bed. We fell asleep.

His newness protected me from the old ghosts that had hovered everywhere. My dreams were becoming blank.

Holy spirits

I walked to that Colfax cathedral one day and sat in a pew. The sanctuary appeared to be made of bone which placed me in a skull. Stained glass windows, pools of veins, kindled a gossamer blue and red and violet. The silence of the cathedral held onto my throat and stifled my the air in my lung. I heard a few ghosts. New or holy. Swarming with the relics. Sobbing in the veil pools, repenting onto the pew edges. I thought of the Satanists. I left the church and cried.


The nurse’s body warmed when he saw me naked for a second time, a large fruit for his fingers. His eyes told me he wanted to tend me back to health. When he went down on me he wanted to go inside of me, to see my organs and touch them in his way. He wanted to study me with his tongue and his mind. Fill me with his spirit.

His novelty possessed me like your ghost. New orgasms on our old mattress.

After he left I turned off all the lights and touched myself to smell him. Or maybe you. I fell asleep.

Ghosts stirred, folding. Threw all of my possessions in the middle of the night. Thud drops. Guttural clash. The radiator clicking. The chain pull.

I woke up in a pool of sweat. The lights on.

A forgetful peace

After that night my dreams became silent films. The blots in the frames grew. Shadow clusters dissolving ghosts. I couldn’t picture us. I lost track of things. Memories I couldn’t hold.


Julia Kooi Talen (she/her) is a writer living in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. She’s currently an MFA candidate in creative writing at Northern Michigan University where she teaches college composition and reads for Passages North. Her writing can be found or is forthcoming in Grimoire MagazineLandLocked MagazineLammergeier, Thin Air Magazine, and other publications.

Back to Issue: Spring 2021