Ghost Talker Poem by Dorsía Smith Silva

By Wasafiri Editor on May 27, 2022 in New Writing Prize, Poetry

Wasafiri is proud to publish the shortlisted works of the 2021 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize. These poems, essays, and short stories detail a range of emotions and experiences, produced by skilled new writers from all over the globe. In this poem, Dorsía Smith Silva delivers an elegy to childhood, and a chilling, lyrical tribute to the vast number of missing Black girls who are never found.

The 2022 Queen Mary Wasafiri New Writing Prize is open until 30 June. You can enter the prize and read more about it here.

& for the black girls
that go missing from 
newspaper headlines &
spotlight 5 pm news. What 
happened to them? Kick 
the can over. See if the bones 
glint in the slips of sunshine. 
Press your ears against the 
grass. Listen to what bleeds.

My mother in her lovely 
tongue. Those girls are 
probably with friends. Hanging 
out in the basement. Wearing 
cigarette pants. Cigarette 
pants were fashionable once. 

They will turn up. Like loose 
change sidelined under sofa 
cushions. Overdue books 
sandwiched in sweaters. Favourite 
hairpins gagged by vents. 

Don’t fret. Fret is a funny word 
for a young child. Sounds like 
forget. Don’t forget. I won’t.
About the missing black girls.
Probably already dead. In a 
ditch. Or field somewhere. 

I’m not supposed to think about 
death. Passing away. Kicked 
the bucket. 6 feet under. Meeting 
our maker. Which is what my 
teacher said. The class guinea pig 
had stopped moving. Mrs Hayes 
poked its feet. & then shoved it 
into a shoebox. Said that we could 
bury it across the tire swing. In 
the back of the school yard. The 
dirt was ordinary. Brown. Hard.  

Eat your snack, said my mother.
Twinkies. From 7-11. Maybe 
Wawa. Nothing from SuperFresh 
or Pathmark. White filling. Creamy 
like white fungus. Oozing like 
zit puss. Besmirching golden cake.  

The news says nothing about 
black girls that go missing. Not 
even a speck in someone’s 
unread newspaper. Silence is 
when we inherit ghosts. I see them 
taking victory laps every night. 

Image of author Dorsía Smith Silva is a Pushcart Prize nominee, Best of the Net nominee, Cave Cavem Poetry Prize Semifinalist, Obsidian Fellow, and Full Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico, Río Piedras. Her poetry is forthcoming in Crazyhorse, The Offing, The Minnesota Review, Poetry Northwest, and elsewhere. She has attended the Bread Loaf Environmental Writers’ Workshop, Bread Loaf Writers’ Workshop, and the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshop. She has a PhD in Caribbean Literature and posts at @DSmithSilva. 




Photo by Quinn Burman on Unsplash