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 Ghost, debuted 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.