Poets & Writers

A Poet a Day: Luis Alberto Urrea Reads “Ghost Sickness”

"Ghost Sickness"

A Poet a Day: Luis Alberto Urrea

During these trying days of social distancing, self-isolating and quarantines, days rife with fear and anxiety, my colleagues and I thought you might like some company. So each day we will be introducing you to poets we have met over the years. The only contagion they will expose you to is a measure of joy, reflection and meditation brought on by “the best words in the best order.”
— Bill Moyers

In this 2012 Moyers Moment from Moyers & Company, author and poet Luis Alberto Urrea reads part of an epic poem he wrote about his father, who was killed in a mysterious car crash on his way back to the US from his hometown of Sinaloa, Mexico.

Excerpt from “Ghost Sickness”

By Luis Alberto Urrea

My father
dead now for interminable years.
Won’t leave me in peace, doesn’t want to go.
I see him every day.
My old man hides in trees, in water,
in clouds of smoke escaping from secretary cigarettes,
or he enters like a thief through my windows
and he steals my food.

He’s a live wire.
He’s capable of hiding himself on the moon
and he tells me,
son, nothing remains.
Nothing remains.

My father planted in his Mexican soil,
laying roots into the dark meadow of forget, shines.
When I turn off the lamp,
his face throws sparks in the corner.
When I make love, he comes running.
When I step out to the street,
he pursues me through the eyes of homeless children.
He wears heels of gold.
He smells my coffee.
I see him without seeing him and he says,
son, nothing remains.
Nothing remains.

My father dead already and turned to dust,
cries tears of clay.
With the voice of stones,
he shouts, he sings,
his final advice.

Son, your life is one coin.
Spend yourself well
for nothing remains.
Nothing remains of me.

Luis Alberto Urrea is a prolific and acclaimed author of 14 books, including poetry, essays and novels.  Born in Tijuana, Mexico to a Mexican father and an Anglo mother, Urrea’s work is inspired by his cross-cultural upbringing and unique perspective of life on both sides of the border. Watch Bill’s entire interview with Luis below.