My great-grandmother’s house didn’t die
when she left. They took away her only
ring, the moldy zines, the chairs and
coffee tables she had collected
from green rubbish bins.
When that failed, they took her
ghosts as well.
My mother slapped my arm when I
tried to press a hand against the wall.
It is bad manners to wake a house
from its slumber. Since teenagers
marked the bricks with a single
white graffiti word
my mother whispers the same reply
each time we pass by.
Ghosts are not like the ring with
the large diamond orbited by
eight small ones—how did it
survive two World Wars?—
or the leatherbound Latin book
from 1865—she’d never been
to school, how did she know?—
It is a messy business to distribute
ghosts. My family had to weed them
out of mouseholes and cracked
teacups. They resisted the way
only ghosts know, but all
gave away in the end
like nylon socks.
My uncle had it easy: dusty books
and moldy zines, collector’s editions—
how did she know? —The unfavorite
grandchild was lucky; the ghosts fled him.
My grandmother took in the
hauntings, so her children wouldn’t
“Your sister has no coat, why do you?
I don’t have a penny, why do you,
why do you?”
echoes of debt-collectors’ footsteps and
caresses to the cheeks of less unfavorite children
My grandmother always said that a
mother can bring up nine children, but
nine children can’t care for a mother
or tend to her ghosts. So my grandmother
swallowed them unchewed, and burnt
candles in front of the grey photograph.
She grew fat with ghosts so her children
wouldn’t have to. Would they?
My mother looked and looked as she
dusted the corners and threw the last
carton box, but only the nine-diamond
ring and the dreams remained, so she
took them and wondered
if it was a mercy.
The women in my family still talk to her
when they pass by the semibasement,
but I was born too late to be so
enamored with ghosts.
When I grow too old for my mother to
slap my arm, I don’t press my palm against
the wall. I’d be ashamed to feel its pulse,
to wake it from its slumber and say,
“I don’t remember.”
Madalena Daleziou (she/her) is a Greek writer and content creator living in Glasgow, where she studied an MLitt in fantasy literature. Her work has previously appeared or is forthcoming in Lucent Dreaming, the other side of hope, Nightingale and Sparrow, and other venues. She can most often be found at a bookshop, or behind a keyboard, writing stories with too many ghosts. Madalena is on Twitter @LBooklott and her bibliography is available at https://ladyofbooklot.wordpress.com/publications/.