by Sean
Please note: MP3s are only kept online for a short time, and if this entry is from more than a couple of weeks ago, the music probably won't be available to download any more.


Kudzu, photographer unknown

Today's post is about ghosts. Here are four swift introductions, and then a story. See also this.

Queen Victoria - "Up On The Rooftop".
Queen Victoria is also called Nick Malkin and The Endless Night comes in a black package without any information, just a sepia photograph that makes me think of Jandek, but the music is warmer than that (for all its desolation), and Malkin's moan does not sound as sad as it makes itself out to be, like someone who's waiting for the day when he can garage-sale all his Leonard Cohen records while his wife plays inside with their little girl. [MySpace]

Phosphorescent - "Cocaine Lights".
A eulogy, a hymn, a folk-song. In the raga of piano, guitar and tambourine you hear voices open, just singing, no words, and you hear these groans wobble & sour, all the death shaking out from their loose, live lungs. [buy]

The Harpeth Trace - "Who Knows Where You Are".
I do not know if there is mist in Los Angeles, but if there is not I suspect the Harpeth Trace spend their evenings on the beach, watching the stars begin to pinprick, wishing that maybe the Clientele's London fog will make its way through the seven seas to wrap them up where they stand. [buy/West Coast tour]

Burial - "Raver".
If you fall down at the nightclub, 3:00 in the morning, streetlights and taillights and twilights smeared in your eyes, and you hit your head, and your dreams exte-e-end, Burial would be playing behind your sleep. [buy]


On Valentine's Day, when Lila was twenty six, she stopped hearing ghosts. It didn't happen until their dessert was coming out, something with coconut and silken tofu, but all of a sudden the restaurant around her went very quiet and she could hear the Thai music a little better and hear Jake a little better and hear the couples beside them a little better. And she didn't think anything of it, really, because the dessert was fucking good and she was trying to decide if she'd go back with Jake after dinner and it wasn't until much later, when she was walking home alone along the ice, that she realised wait wait wait wait wait wait where did they go?

When she was a little girl, Lila thought that everyone heard ghosts. Their whispers were part of regular life, like pins-and-needled feet, or the wind, and she did not pay much attention to their murmurs. But the third time she mentioned them to her parents, they began to ask her questions. And her answers led to concerns, and the concerns to late-night conversations, and to psychiatrists, and doctors, and ultimately to a wary wonderment in their eyes, not quite sure what to say to the daughter who heard spirits.

The ghosts didn't speak in words; they moaned and murmured. Their sounds made Lila think of rivers, rushes, bass saxophones, her dog's happy panting. It was a very soft cacophony, sometimes quiet and sometimes loud, but always there. At her grandmother's wake the voices were so low they almost disappeared; at the bus-stop outside St-Laurent metro, they were inexplicably deafening. When Lila kissed Gregory Pavlovich in sixth grade, the ghosts shook bells, such gentle bells, more daffodil than carillon. At dance-clubs they groaned under the soundsystem's beats, like the swerve of blood through her veins.

But now, on February 14th, they had vanished. The night whistled down Parc Avenue and there was nothing hidden under the wind. Lila slipped into a phone-booth and closed her eyes. She could hear cars skating by, a siren's distant cry, and silence. Back at her apartment every room was barren. The curtains hung unmoving at the window and she lay in her empty bed waiting, just waiting.

The next morning, the ghosts had still not returned. Nor did they return on the 16th, 21st or 28th of February. Lila trudged to work with head bowed, concentrating, straining for whispers. She sat for two hours outside St-Laurent metro, stamping her boots to keep warm. She slipped into the throng at Zoobizarre, one night, and pressed her ear to the speaker as if she might jar something free. And later she stood shivering atop Mont Royal, ankle-deep in snow, imagining a voice that would rise up & out of the skyline. No voice came.

Again she went to doctors, twenty years after those initial appointments, but this time with a different question: where did the voices go? She spoke with friends, former lovers, telephoned her parents in Florida. On a Sunday morning she found herself at church, bored out of her mind, and light streamed in through the stained glass.

"I used to hear all these voices," she said to Jake. "I don't know what they were. Who they were. But they were there, they were there. You know? Everywhere. And now it's all gone. Like someone turned off the sound of your heartbeat, or if you lived by the ocean and someone turned off the tide."

"Maybe the dead died," he said.

"Maybe they weren't the dead," she said.

Grocery shopping felt hollowed out, like all the smells were gone. Drinking felt hollowed out, like there was no one to catch her if she got too drunk. Sleeping felt hollowed out, all the dreams like paper. She seduced Jake, brought him cherries and honeycomb toffee and kisses, and she brought him back to her place, and she wrapped him in her legs, and in the midst of her flush she clenched her fists because she knew, she knew, she could hear and she knew - nothing had changed.

And what can I say, really, except that the ghosts never came back. That Lila spent the rest of her days listening for the departed voices, hunting for wisps of them in other things, carrying in her heart a nostalgia that was lonely and unsure, wondering as she aged if she had imagined it all, whether she had ever heard these things, and who believes in ghosts anyhow, and probably it was some ear problem, and who cares, and the murmurs of spirits have nothing to do with our greatest joys, and what's the point of searching for things that don't dwell here with us, and why not just love & live here, with bodies and birds, and forget the forgotten things, just live under sky and over earth, in winter and summer, and be happy and sad and mortal, yes and mortal, (and when we die we will be home again).


If you live in Montreal, I still say you should come to this concert tonight because the bands are amazing and the price is right and many of my friends will be there so probably yours will be too. Spake the Grandmaphone: oh yes oh yes, uh huh, yup, yes, damn straight.

Posted by Sean at January 17, 2008 7:11 AM

That was beautiful.

Posted by last year's girl at January 17, 2008 8:59 AM

I wish I could REALLY understand your writing.!!

Posted by zaidie at January 17, 2008 11:54 AM

This makes me nostalgic for when I was 8 years old & believed in ghosts.

You really hit it on the spot here. And that first song is wonderful.

Posted by Sean at January 17, 2008 1:06 PM

Does this story have a name?

Posted by Tyler at January 17, 2008 2:30 PM

beautiful story.

Posted by e. at January 17, 2008 3:28 PM

that story made me sad.

Posted by Amber at January 17, 2008 6:41 PM

Very nice. Reminds me of an Amanda Davis story.

Posted by jer at January 17, 2008 9:27 PM

you are an amazing writer (poet too).

Posted by Samuel NELSON at January 17, 2008 10:00 PM


Posted by ru at January 19, 2008 8:06 PM


Posted by david b at January 20, 2008 1:41 PM

oh yeah, and there is mist and fog in southern california - the heaviest of greys.

Posted by david b at January 20, 2008 1:43 PM

that is a gorgeous story. so echoey & evocative. & like sean commented, it also brings me back to my childhood, when i was convinced that ghosts of ballerinas lived in the juniper bush outside my house. i used to bring them presents of ribbons & craft-store roses...

Posted by jenanne at January 22, 2008 5:39 PM

thank god for you
you make my heart feel warm

Posted by vladislalalava at January 27, 2008 12:07 AM

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about said the gramophone
This is a daily sampler of really good songs. All tracks are posted out of love. Please go out and buy the records.

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"And I shall watch the ferry-boats / and they'll get high on a bluer ocean / against tomorrow's sky / and I will never grow so old again."
about the authors
Sean Michaels is the founder of Said the Gramophone. He is a writer, critic and author of the theremin novel Us Conductors. Follow him on Twitter or reach him by email here. Click here to browse his posts.

Emma Healey writes poems and essays in Toronto. She joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. This is her website and email her here.

Jeff Miller is a Montreal-based writer and zinemaker. He is the author of Ghost Pine: All Stories True and a bunch of other stories. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Say hello on Twitter or email.

Mitz Takahashi is originally from Osaka, Japan who now lives and works as a furniture designer/maker in Montreal. English is not his first language so please forgive his glamour grammar mistakes. He is trying. He joined Said the Gramophone in 2015. Reach him by email here.

Site design and header typography by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet. The header graphic is randomized: this one is by Neale McDavitt-Van Fleet.
Dan Beirne wrote regularly for Said the Gramophone from August 2004 to December 2014. He is an actor and writer living in Toronto. Any claim he makes about his life on here is probably untrue. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.

Jordan Himelfarb wrote for Said the Gramophone from November 2004 to March 2012. He lives in Toronto. He is an opinion editor at the Toronto Star. Click here to browse his posts. Email him here.
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our favourite blogs
(◊ means they write about music)

Back to the World
La Blogothèque
Weird Canada
Destination: Out
Endless Banquet
A Grammar (Nitsuh Abebe)
Ill Doctrine
A London Salmagundi
Words and Music
Petites planétes
Gorilla vs Bear
Silent Shout
Clouds of Evil
The Dolby Apposition
Awesome Tapes from Africa
Matana Roberts
Pitchfork Reviews Reviews
i like you [podcast]
Nicola Meighan
radiolab [podcast]
CKUT Music
plethoric pundrigrions
Wattled Smoky Honeyeater
The Clear-Minded Creative
Torture Garden
Passion of the Weiss
Juan and Only
Horses Think
White Hotel
Then Play Long (Marcello Carlin)
Uno Moralez
Coming Up For Air (Matt Forsythe)
my love for you is a stampede of horses
It's Nice That
Song, by Toad
In Focus
WTF [podcast]
The Rest is Noise (Alex Ross)
My Daguerreotype Boyfriend
The Hood Internet

things we like in Montreal
st-viateur bagel
café olimpico
Euro-Deli Batory
le pick up
kem coba
le couteau
au pied de cochon
mamie clafoutis
tourtière australienne
chez boris
alati caserta
vices & versa
+ paltoquet, cocoa locale, idée fixe, patati patata, the sparrow, pho tay ho, qin hua dumplings, caffé italia, hung phat banh mi, caffé san simeon, meu-meu, pho lien, romodos, patisserie guillaume, patisserie rhubarbe, kazu, lallouz, maison du nord, cuisine szechuan &c

drawn + quarterly
+ bottines &c

casa + sala + the hotel
blue skies turn black
montreal improv theatre
passovah productions
le cagibi
cinema du parc
pop pmontreal
yoga teacher Thea Metcalfe

Cult Montreal
The Believer
The Morning News
The Skinny