Ghosts of Dead Boy Street: A Prose Poem

by Jennifer McCauley

You don’t know me. I’ve been ghosting here longer than your history remembers. My blood is patterned on the soil underneath your un-swept cement. You don’t know that, nah, you treat my body like its devil-black, like it’s soft to time. You’ve never seen my body as it is, bountiful, blazing, bronzed by God.

I’ll tell you what my body ain’t. My body ain’t a thing to be tucked, blue and swollen under a scramble of snow. My body ain’t a thing to be found. Nobody should have to see my little boy picture on the mid-day news. Nobody should have to remember whether I liked Doublemint or Bazooka, whether I chewed on cigarette tips or wore my jeans with a leather belt. My body is not a thing to be tossed or treated. It’s a thing made to squeeze a Mama-waist or to snatch up tamarindo or to just run out running, alive.

I’ll tell you this:

You cannot stuff this life in a house. You cannot manacle this life, or hurl it into a little shadowed room. My spirit is steaming up, through sidewalk cracks and haygrass, through the high roofs of corner markets. Before you came for me, you should have known this too:

If you take this body, this spirit ain’t goin’ float up to God and forget you. Nah, my spirit is huffing, puffing, hurting your glass; it’s sleeping sweet in your daughter’s bed. See? It’s breathing.

This is a warning: this dead boy spirit can breathe, breathe, breathe.

Photo: a katz / Shutterstock

Jennifer Maritza McCauley is a writer, teacher, and Ph.D. candidate in creative writing at the University of Missouri. She is the recipient of a James L. Knight Fellowship in fiction from Florida International University, where she earned her MFA. She is also an associate editor of Origins Literary Journal, the book reviews editor at Fjords Review, and she has published work in a variety of creative and non-creative outlets.