I was there at the edge of Never,
of Once Been, bearing the night’s hide
stretched across the night sky,
awake with myself disappointing myself,
armed, legged & torsoed in the bed,
my head occupied by enemy forces,
mind not lost entire, but wandering
off the marked path ill-advisedly. This March
Lucie upped and died, and the funny show
of her smoky-throated world began to fade.
I didn’t know how much of me was made
by her, but now I know that this spooky art
in which we staple a thing
to our best sketch of a thing was done
under her direction, and here I am
at 4 AM, scratching a green pen over a notebook
bound in red leather in October.
It’s too warm for a fire. She’d hate that.
And the cats appear here only as apparitions
I glimpse sleeping in a chair, then
Wohin bist du entschwunden? I wise up,
know their likenesses are only inked
on my shoulder’s skin, their chipped ash poured
in twin cinerary jars downstairs. Gone
is gone, said the goose to the shrunken boy
in the mean-spirited Swedish children’s book
I love. I shouldn’t be writing this
at this age or any other. She mothered
a part of me that needed that, lit
a spirit-lantern to spin shapes inside
my obituary head, even though—
I’m nearly certain now—she’s dead.
Copyright © 2019 by Mark Wunderlich. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on May 23, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Here on my lap, in a small plastic bag,
my share of your ashes. Let me not squander
them. Your family blindsided me with this gift.
We want to honor your bond they said at the end
of your service, which took place, as you'd
arranged, in a restaurant at the harbor,
an old two-story boathouse made of dark
wood. Some of us sat on the balcony, on black
leather bar stools, staring at rows of docked boats.
Both your husbands showed up and got along.
And of course your impossibly handsome son.
After lunch, a slideshow and testimonials,
your family left to toss their share of you
onto the ocean, along with some flowers.
You were the girlfriend I practiced kissing
with in sixth grade during zero-sleep
sleepovers. You were the pretty one.
In middle school I lived on diet Coke and
your sexual reconnaissance reports. In this
telling of our story your father never hits
you or calls you a whore. Always gentle
with me, he taught me to ride a bike after
everyone said I was too klutzy to learn.
In this version we're not afraid of our bodies.
In this fiction, birth control is easy to obtain,
and never fails. You still dive under a stall
divider in a restroom at the beach to free me
after I get too drunk to unlock the door. You still
reveal the esoteric mysteries of tampons. You
still learn Farsi and French from boyfriends
as your life ignites. In high school I still guide you
safely out of the stadium when you start yelling
that the football looks amazing as it shatters
into a million shimmering pieces, as you
loudly admit that you just dropped acid.
We lived to be sixty. Then poof, you vanished.
I can't snort you, or dump you out over my head,
coating myself in your dust like some hapless cartoon
character who's just blown herself up, yet remains
unscathed, as is the way in cartoons. In this version,
I remain in place for a while. Did you have a good
journey? I'm still lagging behind, barking up all
the wrong trees, whipping out my scimitar far
in advance of what the occasion demands. As I
drive home from your memorial, you fizz in
my head like a distant radio station. What
can I do to bridge this chasm between us?
In this fiction, I roll down the window, drive
uncharacteristically fast. I tear your baggie
open with my teeth and release you at 85
miles an hour, music cranked up full blast.
Copyright © 2019 by Amy Gerstler. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on March 21, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.