David Krump describes the ghosts of the Mississippi in his poem, “Ophelia Soft.” As they rise from the river at night, they roam through the streets of La Crosse. The ghosts, old and new, wonder why they are ignored at places they used to visit.
Location: 118 5th Ave. South
Hello, my name is David Krump. I’m the first-place winner of the 2017 Hear, Here Poetry Contest. My poem is “Ophelia Soft.” This poem was written in response to what we could reasonably call an epidemic of young men drowning in the La Crosse area, in the Mississippi River and also in response to the drowning death of one of my good friends.
There are new ghosts in the Mississippi
and all day they play unimaginable, underwatery
games with each other.
Come night, the moon releases them, old and new,
from the grip of the river. Then old drowned Sioux
and new suicides chase weightless spirits
of black and brown bison through our bedrooms.
Perhaps those who died in what we understand
as accident do not realize their conclusions.
Every night they waver through
small-town side-streets back to the small taverns.
they stand impossibly still with a twenty-dollar bill
dripping on the bar, wondering why no one will serve them.
Among the living, few hear this tired pounding on the bar
or those desperate whispers of theirs:
What did I do the last time I was here
which has me so now ignored?
Alley cats’ ears pirch up, vibrate
into double votives when the ghosts
float sobbing on by, lonely as water
in the beginning. In the beginning
there was a vast and formal formlessness,
then waters, rivers, ground
the formlessness down,
separated the dead
from the living.