After Major Jackson

Because I could say my friends' exes live in a swamp in my heart
            and no one would ask what it means.
Because my head is level and my wrists are narrow.
Because after block parties and cookouts my mom corralled us
            into the bathtub to wash dirt from our soles.
Because nowadays I go to bed with unwashed feet.
Because everyone who didn't eat breakfast in my house hates grapefruit.
Because instead of letting people in, I rebuild myself around them.
Because it haunts me that my aunt would still be alive
            if she still had health insurance.
Because I still think about characters in books I read at age eleven
            now nameless and faceless.
Because all my poems end up in AP style.
Because I always have a crush on someone taller than me.
Because I can't find anyone in New England who knows what it's like
            to ride the Brown Line over the Chicago River in summertime.
Because my best friend and I have different words for love.
Because I'm still afraid to die.
Because I rode Razor scooters on the blacktop with the boys before school.
Because walking through Boston feels like spitting out cold air.
Because I spend a Valentine's Day at a funeral I couldn't cry at.
Because the winter always makes me like this.
Because I don't know what I mean by like this.

Copyright © Leah Kindler. This poem originally appeared in Respect the Mic: Celebrating 20 Years of Poetry from a Chicagoland High School (Penguin, 2022). Used with permission of the author.