Ghosts in the halls / darby lyons


for Arthur, Raj-Paul, Richard, and more


There are ghosts in the halls of this school,

boys walking past lockers, jostling their friends,

dragging backpacks by one strap,


the weight of the unfinished

homework they carry as proof

they don’t need to follow the rules


to be loved. Some of them care

more than they will pretend,

more than they want the others to know.


Some of the ghosts are celebrated

in headlines, above the details of death—

the ones who ran faster, studied longer,


were stronger than the weight

of anxiety and doubt. They are the ones

reporters call “good kids,” the faces


on front pages, wearing uniforms and medals,

The others fall in stories far below

the fold: a name, an age, a record of


ways they may have brought this on

themselves. But all of them leave

hearts behind, unreported, untallied.


They wander here, where they’re always sixteen, always


believing they’re immortal, unable to imagine

a hole in the chest, a skull blown through,

blood and brains washed from a sidewalk,


an apartment lobby, the floor of a bar.

They will always hover here,

between boy and man and good and bad,


lighthearted and laughing,

never thinking

what their headlines will say.


Darby Lyons lives in Cincinnati and recently retired after 31 years of teaching English and creative writing in Wyoming, Ohio. She received her MFA from the Sewanee School of Letters, and her work has appeared in Mud Season ReviewFlights, and other publications. She was a Tupelo Press 30/30 Project poet for the month of April, 2018.