From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

The Reality of Ghosts

“Why do so many Asians believe in ghosts?”
Two white yokai scholars won’t stop gawking
at us like we’re aliens seen through a telescope.
They bait our deceased ancestors to rise up

in a parade of their torn robes, already stained
by the handprints of grave robbers. Demand
elegies to be bottled up for a weighing of
their heaviness, a test of their misty reality.

I must have left my soul in Fengdu Ghost City
two summers ago, when I devoured an icy blue
popsicle atop the mountain home of Diyu,
the Underworld. Perhaps it’s why I see ghosts

everywhere now. A Chinese granny
in a bookstore has my late Wai-Poh’s
toothless smiles and stooped shoulders.
I trace the spine of second-hand history

she leaves behind on the shelves. Count my
breaths to check whether I’m dreaming.
Each gap between tiny footnotes
is a signpost for the names left out.

Wild marginalia peeks out from the edges
of peeling white-out. My transcended kin
didn’t pass on to have their half-healed scabs
ripped open again, paper offerings stolen

like plundered heirlooms, trapped
behind spotless display windows
so far away from home. It’s much easier
to summon spirits than to

cast them away. When they are
evoked, they’ll return without fanfare,
and they’ll feast. A hunting of the unreal
living, a haunting of the faithless.

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Yilin Wang

Yilin Wang

Yilin Wang (she/they) is a writer, editor, and Chinese-English translator. Her writing has appeared in ClarkesworldThe Malahat ReviewGrainCV2carte blancheThe Toronto StarThe Tyee, and elsewhere. She has been longlisted for the CBC Poetry Prize, a finalist for the Far Horizons Award for Short Fiction, and longlisted for the Peter Hinchcliffe Short Fiction Award. Her translations and essays about translation have appeared or are forthcoming in Words Without Borders, AsymptoteLA Review of Books China ChannelSamovarPathlight, and the anthology The Way Spring Arrives and Other Stories (Tor), while her research on martial arts fiction has featured on various podcasts. Yilin has an MFA in Creative Writing from UBC and is a member of the Clarion West Writers Workshop 2020/2021. She is currently at work on her first short story collection. Find her online: www.yilinwang.com / @yilinwriter.