This Week, I Read Greg Santos’s Ghost Face

Image Credit: Steinar Engleland via Unsplash

“If I ever visit Cambodia,/I wonder what it will be like/ to be met with smiling faces

that look like mine?” the speaker in Greg Santos’s collection, Ghost Face asks. “Will I feel at home/ or utterly alone?”

Ghost Face is about how the speaker fits in to his own history. As an adopted child, and then as a parent himself, he explores the roots of his birth family, as well as his adopted one, and then, finally, the family that he started himself. It’s a multilayered work, with some particularly poignant moments. One such moment is in the poem, “Dear Ghosts.”

“Your faces flash/in the attic of my memory…You are welcome spirits,” the speaker says. “The moment is gone/and I’m left gasping/grasping for something to hold.//The distant sound of our dishwasher,/some light rain outside, and it’s//gone.”

I love the interplay of the tangible and the intangible in this particular piece. There’s the juxtaposition of that which is there, and that which eludes the poet.

Santos’s work is lovely. His poems are influenced by Mark Strand and John Ashbery in all of the best ways. Ghost Face is an exploration of culture, family history, and absence versus presence. It looks forward to Santos’s own family, and the tender portrait of the poet as a parent, and how his experiences have shaped him. I highly recommend this book, which will be available in March 2020 through D.C. Books.

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