In Hinduism a Hungry Ghost (or Preta) is fed rice so it can reincarnate.
Write prayers for the dead today, feed them rice balls,
they see only three children, say there is another one
somewhere, knocking on the outline of a womb,
write me a prayer, feed them through their tiny throats
filled with air, can’t write prayers for the dead these days,
they knock on my door with wild streaks, a sugar rush,
opening up, unbolting, unlocking the doors, fumbling for keys,
this is a thin time, skin is bursting, scratch my feet,
want to barefoot into the garden where the ghost keeps
looking for the lost child; Come inside whisper the dead,
don’t be angry, I won’t feed prayers to the dead, I reply,
they make demands to be fed sugared almonds, want
cow’s milk, sixteen rice balls before the burn, want me
to change them into ether, Must I feed these children
that don’t exist? They don’t look into my eyes, We are not
far away, they say. Won’t someone write a prayer
to feed me, that I might appear where that hunger lives.
Jessica is lives in Kent. Her work appears in many journals including Agenda, Poetry Wales, The North, Rialto, Under the Radar, Birmingham Literary Review and in various anthologies including Bloodaxe’s Staying Human. She was highly commended in the 2017 and 2021 Forward Prize for best single poem. Her second full collection, Tigress, (Nine Arches Press 2019) has been shortlisted for the Ledbury Munthe Prize for Best Second Collection . She is a joined editor of Against the Grain Poetry Press.