by Nathan Cummings, 18
Mercer Island High School, Mercer Island, Washington


After Jane Hirshfield


Eighteen years
we’ve kept it going,
and last month she finally told me
she wanted out.

she said,
I feel like I’ve just been going
through the motions:

mirroring your steps,
smothered by tissues, following
repetitive vertebrae.
She is tired of bearing all
the weight—day in,
day out.

I suggest we try a counselor.
She recommends a surgeon.
The process, when it happens,

is anticlimactic: a few blinding strokes
of his scalpel, and
our union ends. We’d almost
expected more.

At the train station,
we say our goodbyes.
It’s November,
and I can see her shiver
as the wind shrills through her pelvis.
She tells me she’ll call
once she finds a new apartment.

I slough back to the car,
formless, hollow. My fingers
slide off the wheel
like empty banana skins.

Slowly, I’m beginning
to notice the little things
that disappeared with her:

the click of joints each morning,
an ivory line
of teeth in the mirror, a
gentle basket of collarbones.
I wonder where she’s headed,
and if she’ll be warm enough there
without me.

I'd thought us close,
but now I wonder
if I had really known her at all:
all those dull nights
empty with sleep,
our arms and legs together,
her jaw below my mouth,

never telling her
what I thought she'd always known.


Written in Response to Jane Hirshfield's "My Skeleton"