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The Ghosts of Ħaż-Żabbar by Vanessa Walters


Hot summer.

I lay in my auntie’s bed, kept awake until the birds sing

by a regular chime of the grandfather clock,

the fan is my companion,

and I make a tent over my body from the bedsheet

to protect my skin from the mosquitos







(Can you hear the buzzzzzz in Hazzz-Zzzabbar?)


Nanna’s house says “grandeur” with an echo

that chills me as a child forever.

It could be a stage set

for a secret show

And then I’ll catch myself staring back in the mirror.

And then a disapproving voice,

Has had one eye on the beads

and one eye on me.


I am told that girls-in-white walk their brothers and sisters to church (chinese whispers)

along the dusty streets.


all the auntie’s houses

and nannas too.

But I am a girl-in-black and my nanna

thinks I am mourning

grandpa from England.


I can hear the buzzz

in the crickets too.

The garden’s own tune.


Cover your body in lemons

in Haz-Zabbar

before you sleep

to make sweeter sweat

to fight the biting buzz

to make a tongue zing

to the ghost who comes by the frosted door,

after nanna prayed

the souls sing.


Vanessa Walters is an artist and writer working in photography, creative non-fiction and poetry. Recent writing has been published in Quaranzine (Profound Experience on Earth), Ang(st) Zine, Marías at Sampaguitas, Detritus Journal, Rejection Lit and The Daily Drunk. Her other work can be seen at Follow her on instagram @walters.vanessa and twitter @vanessa_walters 


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