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When a pen presses on a notepad, words are embossed on the layers of paper beneath. These phantom imprints gave Richard McCann the title of his poetry collection, Ghost Letters (Alice James Books). “I felt drawn to this image of being marked by things, but being marked faintly,” McCann says. In Letters, the American University assistant professor of creative writing, who has also contributed to the “Men on Men” series (see “Book Marks,” 11/4/94), memorializes a former lover lost to AIDS, and addresses his father, brother, and mother. Yet the prevailing tone isn’t sweetly nostalgic: As McCann writes, “in my dreams I telephoned the dead, seeking their consolations/but they were angrier than I’d even remembered.” He reads with Maxine Clair at 8 p.m. Wednesday, March 22, at American University’s Gray Hall.