They flatten themselves against
the walls, as I walk past
trying to make themselves
holding the breath
they never had
to remain unheard and I
flex my fingers
feel the cracks in my knuckles and my
as I breathe for them.
They are not shrinking back in fear
but in relief
heads bowed, ghosts
in awe of the living
hiding from the light.
It never comes
and still they stand there, waiting
flattened paper sculptures
where the spectres used to hide.
Every crack was a stolen breath
every smile an act of defiance, every
act of rage, every fast, illicit
a testament to life
where the ghosts were meant to be.
Every smile now
a fair exchange
every slow, deep breath at night
a token like the precious
bits of treasure taken from a child’s
A smooth stone, a penny, a tattered wing from a broken moth
their worth unknown except to those
who picked them up
The ghosts are watching from behind their paper eyes and I am
staring back with matches
set to light.