Playing noughts and crosses with the ghost

            For the ghost at St. Bathans


Moon against sky, straightforward trees and a ghost,
waiting like a branch of artificial intelligence inside
the room. A particular pencil-and-paper encounter,
long overdue, good sportsmanship by candlelight,
space and reflection, essentially an X and O game,
(vertical, diagonal), celestial bodies rotating outside

the following: a guest located somewhere outside
the horizontal framework, a sun (recently set), a ghost
in desperate need of diversion, and a simple game,
usually associated with the marking of spaces inside
a grid (natural light having given way to candlelight),
astronomy playing no obvious part in this encounter

taking turns inside a hotel room, a heated encounter
with the silhouette of a paper-and-pencil tree outside,
a darkened sky searching its branches for candlelight,
stars, moons and planets no match for a tired ghost
intent on winning, its tactics becoming visible inside
the grid (which player will succeed) although the game,

even before it ends, will begin to play its own game,
with many views of the constellations, an encounter
both non-competitive and unilateral, concealed inside
its apparently straightforward exclusion of outside
complexities (which can be so confronting to a ghost,
especially one exclusively oriented to candlelight),

a liberated grid playing perfectly, lack of candlelight
no impediment, on a clear night the nature of the game
becoming clearer against the sky, beyond reach of ghost
or guest, a lengthy, celestially-numerous encounter
on location (inclusive of moonlight) a world outside
vertical, horizontal and diagonal rows, while inside,

ghost and guest continue to exchange moves inside
a grid which has separated itself from the candlelight
it was unable to see by, climbing into the trees outside,
trying for a better view, noughts and crosses just a game
it plays at times with two others in a 3 x 3 encounter,
its tolerant grid repeatedly marked by guest and ghost,

both delayed indefinitely inside this small, curious game
no longer taking part, in a drawn-out candlelight encounter
which is also giving way, to an outside, waiting like a ghost.




[Catherine Vidler's collection of poems Furious Triangle was published in 2011 by Puncher & Wattmann. A second collection is forthcoming. A chapbook, Canberra Poems, was recently published by Ginninderra Press, which will also shortly publish another chapbook of Catherine's trans-Tasman poems, The Window and the Tree. In October 2016 a chapbook of 28 visual poems made out of and in response to 'chaingrass', a word from Bill Manhire's poem 'Falseweed', will be published in electronic form by Jazz Cigarette. Further chaingrass work in the form of chaingrass 'patterns' appears or is forthcoming in The New Post-literate,, RENEGADE (an international anthology of visual poetry and language arts edited by Andrew Topel) and on Catherine's website Catherine is editor of trans-Tasman literary magazine Snorkel.]


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