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Iheoma Nwachukwu

Ethnography of Childhood Ghosts
Ghost Two: Maduabuchukwu 1977-2006

I, under the night-gaze of a bridge, was jolted out
of Man's World by a drunken car. White light, bright as my soul,
spilled from my new watch, draining me. I still burn like
the noon sun! I bellowed at Chineke. Shimmer like you,
I gasped at the young Samaritan-thief patting pockets
of my roadside-corpse. I'm only twenty-nine! I yelled
to pulsing dancers outside De Pussy nightclub on my street.
What can be the sense of this cruel game that unseen hands play?
See, I moaned at World Above, pointing at glowing objects in
my room, passed fingers over the bookcase, along folds
of the couch, I touch edges of mother's portrait on the wall, pick up
chiming keys of my '89 Honda on the polished table, lift
dish of unfinished garri and groundnuts on the TV,
press red button of TV remote—
taking the heat of everything.
Then I laid a hand on my favourite armchair
by the open window
and wept.

Ethnography of Childhood Ghosts
Ghost Four: Afamefuna 1906-1929

When alligator pepper, palm oil, and kolanut paint a vever
outside the medicine man's door, I flow to murder: the summoned
ghost, in wrap of fretted-light, like white lace with dark holes.
Flush me through mouth of World Under, O medicine man. Let
me surprise party B in the land dispute, swaddle my form around his
shoulders when he walks into me in the latrine. It causes heart attacks:
when ghosts fold into men. Men stretch, have strokes, die.
Party A paid the medicine man. I paid no one in Man's World.
Did the killing. Did not give vagina to my husband's friend:
a good wife, gave unfaithful husband goat shit and crushed tortoise shell.
Sprinkled in soup. Presided over his death. 'Drink his corpse-water
in cupped leaf to prove your innocence,' his greedy, suspicious
cousins said. Of course I drank. Of course I died. Was I
not guilty? Murder bites holes in the soul. I patch my holes with snatched energy.
Some days I miss the smell of food. But here the ease of travel is something:
to bounce like light! The dead though must eat nothing but light.
You can't buy light at the market, take it home,
cook it in a pot. You must eat what the soul preserves.
Or creep out at dusk, and suck it from living bodies. I suck it
from a man tonight. Pepper calls me, the fieriness of his death.
Palm oil calls me, the blood that must cease its tide.
Kolanut calls me, the life I must douse. His wife calls him
as he walks to the pen, where I have scared the bleating
sheep to the other wall, and where I wait by the dark door jamb,
to make sure the wife shall call, and call, and call, in vain.

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Iheoma Nwachukwu has received fellowships from the Michener Center for Writers, University of Texas, Austin, and the Chinua Achebe Center for African Writers, Bard College, New York. His work has appeared in Unstuck, Black Renaissance Noire, The Apple Valley Review, Eclectica, and other publications.