Psalm for Claire Fisher

by Maya Nylund

Dear God,
This week in school I learned about this girl who killed herself the day
after Thanksgiving. Her name was Claire Fisher and she lived in San Antonio, but
before she lived in SanAntonio she went to my school. She left in eighth grade. I
never met her but I already knew her name. I heard it via the Student Council
President. She was his first girlfriend. He was being ball-busted by his buddies and
he called the relationship a mistake.

Dear God,
In the picture on Claire Fisher's funeral card she's wearing too-orange
foundation. Below her there is a garden of magenta-ink lavender. She has blue eyes
crinkled at the comers like a Baby Ruth wrapper, an All-American Dream. Her shirt is
pressed and collared like the ones I

used to wear to MUN conferences. Her hair is the color of mine before peroxide. She has
Colgate teeth & above the early crow's feet her brows seem somewhat jaded. They
twist upwards slightly, like a tragedian.
Maybe that's grasping. But, in all honesty, God, I swear Claire Fisher looks just like me.

Dear God,
When I first switched schools, I stopped seeing colors and spent daily
lunches in the art room trying to rediscover them. I think the issue might've been
my tear ducts; they had the slowest reflexes. Those days were hungry.
On one of them, I met Matthew. He does photography & was Claire's best friend.
He goes to church every Sunday and he is gay. And he knows he is gay; and I know he
is gay, and everybody at school knows he is gay, but he cannot say the words "I am
gay". I don't know if he ever will while other people can hear.

Dear God,
Now Claire Fisher is just a body and a half-developed print in the darkroom of
my mind and I do not know if I will remember her name.

Dear God,
The teacher in his 50s in the corduroy jacket who spoke at Claire's memorial
said she was a little bossy. She used to argue with Rohan from my AP English Lit
class about whether or not y'all was a real word. He said she always won. He told us
he was jealous of her because in middle school she also won this speech competition
where she gave a treatise on the importance of loving yourself. Matthew told us
he used to joke that she would be the first female president. Someone read a
psalm about how we are all fearfully and wonderfully made.
We all received lavender cuttings on our way out.

Dear God,
Sometimes you are so quiet I forget you are there. Are you there?
I thought I heard you at the memorial when Claire's ex-boyfriend got up to speak
and had to sit back down because the tightness in his throat was threatening
his vocal cords with snapping. In the hush of the mourning, I thought I heard
your breath bubble up like static from somewhere central in the room.
But I was wrong. It was just feedback from someone's phone: an old friend
tuning in through FaceTime.

Dear God,
Claire Fisher should've been the first female president. Her old homeroom teacher
says she used to be the first one to volunteer to make cakes for people's birthdays
when no one else wanted to. Everyone should have known Claire Fisher's name.

Dear God,
This is not Judy Blume I am no fucking Margaret. I want you to answer me.
You need to answer me.

Dear God,
Were you with Claire Fisher that day after Thanksgiving? God if you were there why did you
let Claire Fisher die? Why can't Matthew say those words?
Why does Claire Fisher look so much like me?
And God if you weren't in that room who was there to exact the taste of Claire Fisher in my
The warmth at the wrist, the tautness of the smile, the roughness at the neck, the
bitterness on the back of the tongue—did you feel it too?
And God if you were in that bathroom or bedroom or musty attic could you also see
Claire Fisher standing in the sunbeams streaming cool and quiet to give life to a million
motes of dust in the air?

Dear God,
Today I gave Matthew a chocolate bar and a note with an isomer of
these lines carved on its insides. Later he thanked me and we spoke in
clumsy, weighted generalities. God I am not sure
if you were there or are here presently but I
know Matthew thinks you are and I think Claire Fisher might have

So God if you are with Claire Fisher now please tell her I see her.
Please tell her I am sorry.
Tell her I know her name.

back to University & College Poetry Prizes