Giovanna Toledo Ekphrastic Poem ’21: Oh my Ghost

Samantha Miragliotta, SMALL COPY EDITOR

Description of painting: 

The artist Jacob Lawrence was inspired by the women in his Harlem neighborhood. Like his own mother, they worked hard to support their families and survived on very little money. In this painting, a girl rests on a chair in front of two large windows. In one, a tall, elegant lady stands with a bouquet of flowers, and in the other, a bride and groom dance and throw confetti. Windows and doorways were focal points of New York’s brownstone neighborhoods, creating a link to live on the streets outside. But the bride and groom are clearly in a landscape beyond the city, and in this sense, the windows have become screens onto which the young woman projects her fantasies.


The poem “Oh my Ghost” by Giovanna Toledo is inspired by none other than the painting above, Dreams NO.2 described above. For years prior to 1965, Jacob Lawrence had been painting landscapes in a highly stylized manner. With “Oh my Ghost”, however, he would push it farther towards pure abstraction with people than at any time previously. “Oh my Ghost” is a riveting and spooky poem we here at the CHAT hope you enjoy! 

Oh my Ghost

By Giovanna Toledo

Oh my Ghost,

you plague me through my dreams,

Every color swirls around my glassy eyes,

Just like the tip of a dripping paintbrush when the color

Hits water.

Oh my Ghost,

You think you hold me dear,

All I feel is you holding me close,

It’s tight and too troubling to breathe,

A demon following me to sleep.

Oh my Ghost,

Do you dance around me to my song?

Or do you mock my music?

I need to know,

Are you a friend or foe?

Oh my Ghost,

You keep me company

When no one else does.

Oh my Ghost,

You are free to go.