The only thing that Ghostboy wears is the night
—except for his body which slacks at the neck
& knees that he looks like one of the nocturnal
flowers climbing out of the lichen-ridden swamp.
Ghostboy would brag that no dawn can undress him.
The pride stills the air and light everytime, we do not
breathe we do not argue, we leave Ghostboy in the
drunkenness of smoke and ego. He once hid in the cracks
of a wall and sirened a joy that made ears bleed.
Our lady Amanda became frantic, she searched the whole
wretched whorehouse in vain for a wailing baby.
Her ear bled and her breasts cried a delta of matern lament
even though the only baby she ever had was parcelled
in a black polythene and dumped in some wild garden
because she was too young and too poor to have a baby.
Her regrets had groomed us instead, but we are not one
baby enough. For days, she looked into the mirror that
blocked the sun from reaching the cracks and asked,
God, am I crazy? We sighed behind her, whispering
among ourselves, aren’t we all are? She laughed loud
—did she hear us? Soon the laughter choked itself
into tears. She put on a black night gown and a makeup,
the tears ruined it. A gramophone played a funny song,
a distinct mix of blues and rock. She set the door on fire
and arranged for herself a stool and a rope. We grooved
with the fire and tautened with the rope. When the smoke
and the day is gone, Ghostboy came out —unscathed,
wearing the blackest of night with a slanting smile
on his drooping neck— to play pokers with the charred
flowers and shadows. The shadows won, we always do.
Olumide Manuel, NGP IX, is a writer, a biology teacher and an environmentalist. He is a nominee of Pushcart Prize, and the winner of Aké Climate Change Poetry Prize 2022. His works have been published on Hex Literary, Magma Poetry, Trampset, Uncanny Magazine, Agbowó Magazine, Up The Staircase Quarterly, Frontier Poetry, and elsewhere.