Pride Feature: “There is Only One Ghost in the World.” Commentary and excerpts from coauthor Sophie Klahr.

From Sophie Klahr:

Experiences of gender and sexuality shift continuously from one first-person voice to another throughout the vignettes of There Is Only One Ghost in the World; no expression of one prohibits the expression of another. I identify this book as queer because it essentially embraces all gender possibilities, all possible sexual orientations. This quality reminds me of the first line from Larry Levis’ poem “The Double”: “Out here, I can say anything.” And perhaps instead of “say,” it is “be.” I would never have guessed that collaboration with a cishet man (Corey’s gender and sexual identity) would have given me room to express things about my queerness that I’d not yet been able to articulate in my solo writing. That opportunity and discovery were one of the great gifts of writing this book. 

Excerpt 1: There is Only One Ghost in the World

When you learned the world “pansexual,” your life began to make more sense. All the boyish girls you fell for, the girlish boys. The late ‘90s Teen Beat magazine photographs you tore out and taped on the inside of your locker, because everyone else was doing it: those boys whose floppy hair fell into their eyes. You kiss somebody trans and the coyote loping by at dawn seems to stop and smile at you, as if all your life it had offered you a riddle, and finally, you got it. Being pansexual doesn’t mean that you are attracted to more people than anyone straight or gay might be. It just means that desire is a kaleidoscope, and you are all of the pieces inside. 

Excerpt 2: There is Only One Ghost in the World

You had a friend in high school who interned at a hospital who stole a bunch of X-rays. You got high and she hung a bunch of them with tape from strings she hung in her room. A broken arm. A tumor. Someone’s ruined heart. Christmas lights illuminating the pieces like constellations that have stories no one quite remembers entirely. It felt wrong looking inside people and now, it seems, everywhere you go someone is looking inside of you. A broken promise. An argued memory. Someone’s ruined heart. I’m a good person, you tell your friend, standing in the dry yard the next morning. A single gunshot goes off and you both turn your heads towards the noise, but no other shots come. I know you are, she says. A girl you loved once loved you more and got angry when you didn’t love her like that, like, back enough. She is angry enough to say that you aren’t queer enough. This is always the problem—others drawing little boxes around your desire, waiting at a long panel like a spelling bee competition, waiting for you to fumble, murmur. 

Sophie Klahr is the author of the poetry collections Two Open Doors in a Field (University of Nebraska Press), Meet Me Here at Dawn (YesYes Books), and the collaborative prose work There Is Only One Ghost in the World (Fiction Collective Two), which won the 2022 Ronald Sukenick Prize for Innovative Fiction. Her writing may be found in places such as The New Yorker, American Poetry Review, Poetry London, “Another Last Call: Poems on Addiction & Deliverance” (Sarabande Books), and elsewhere. She was the 2019-2020 Kenan Visiting Writer at the University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill, and a 2019 Philip Roth Resident at the Stadler Center for Poetry & Literary Arts. She lives in Los Angeles and teaches a variety of writing classes online – summer and fall courses are open for registration. 

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