The Wardrobe’s Best Dressed: Naming the Ghost by Emily Hockaday

This selection, chosen by guest editor Amber Alexander, is from Naming the Ghost by Emily Hockaday, released by Cornerstone Press in 2022.

The Ghost’s Demands

The ghost comes to me with a list of demands;
my body makes demands on me, too.
And the baby in the other room, her eyelashes
golden stitches, her hungry mouth full of need.
I have nowhere to go, but the ghost asks me
to leave. This is its first demand. I rise
from my bed, despite the leaden pain, and disappear
into the night. The cars along Woodhaven Boulevard
echo against the brick buildings as I swoop down
into the forest canopy and join the bats looking
for mosquitos and other flying insects. The ghost
did not ask me to transform, but it comes
as naturally as pain. As naturally as the milk
that leaks into my bra when I wake with stone
breasts. I’m tempted to stay here, a wild creature
of fur and wing, but the ghost is gentle but firm.
Would my family miss me? The ghost says yes.
The list of demands becomes dust—I try
to grab it, but it crumbles into motes. It was never
solid. Like my grief, it only held itself in shape.
The shape of grief or pain or the ghost is whatever
shape it needs to take. It could fill your world.
It could hide in the very atoms of your body.
I don’t believe it will ever be gone.

Emily Hockaday’s second collection, In a Body, is forthcoming with Harbor Editions October 2023. Her first full-length, Naming the Ghostdebuted with Cornerstone Press in September 2022. She is the author of six poetry chapbooks, and her poems have appeared in print and online journals, as well as with the Poets of Queens and Parks & Points’ Wayfinding anthologies. Emily writes about ecology, parenthood, chronic illness, grief, and the urban environment.

Amber Alexander, who publishes creative work as e. holloway, is a poet based in Ohio. They currently work in higher education and as an Assistant Editor for Best Of The Net within Sundress Publications. Alexander is a former Editorial Intern for Sundress Publications, former Editorial Board Member for Cornfield Review, and was a Sundress Academy for The Arts Writing Resident in 2023. Their work has been published by Cornfield Review and earned multiple awards during undergrad at The Ohio State University.

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