a ghost story

Isabella Cho

Wilmette, IL

North Shore Country Day School

Poetry

when i reach the mouth of the river/ the ghosts are already there/ mouths brimming with stones./ i harvested the ginseng/ like the books instructed/ pressed the golden root into/ the chicken whose neck i snapped/ and whose organs i pulled/ hot and black/ from the lattice of its ribs./ i was told this/ was enough of a sacrifice for the ancestors/ to wake, heavy and milky-eyed/ from their tombstones./ when they reach me, luminous and silent above/ my figure praying in the wet grass/ they see that my tongue is bruised/ the frenum cracked with sores and veins/ strained from inhabiting two minds/ in one breath./ they circle the chicken/ watch as smoke curls from/ the emptied cavity of its chest./ i beat my own heart/ an overused gesture/ of loneliness./ they pull out the rocks hidden beneath the river/ and hand them to me./ you could, they say/ break your

tongue with these stones/ bleed out bad blood, wash/ the tender flesh in this river thick/ with story. the water swells under/ my bare feet. i trace fingertips along/ the bruised muscle/ each sore a city/ i have loved./ if i take these stones/ this river will yield/ a neutered tongue washed clean/ of a past that has never learned/ to slacken its arms./ but what good is a painless tongue/ that is not mine.

EDITORIAL PRAISE

Full of stunning imagery “a ghost story” sweeps me up in a current of ghostly apparitions, gutted chicken, and neutered tongues. This was one of those rare pieces where I could easily understand the emotions without knowing the reason behind them, and I would love to pick the author's brain about the inspiration behind this piece.

Isabella "Izzy" Cho is a senior and member of the Class of 2020 at North Shore Country Day School in Winnetka, Illinois. She loves writing because the process of articulating the ineffable is, to her, a profound exercise in empathy and self-discovery. Her favorite things include Criminal Minds, solitary walks in suburbia, and Ube Lattes.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR