poetry by SARAH LANDENWICH
You were still there,
making jokes from your hospital bed,
asking for a margarita. We had to tell you to go,
insist that we were ready. Wanting you to end it
so we could go home, eat at our own tables,
bury you under work and sleep. But you held on,
dying slowly, honestly, with fear and regret.
Frail and spent, you were huge.
And then. One missed breath and then.
Something, then nothing. Something.
Nothing. The swiftest violence.
I wish you could be nothing. Less even
than the skeleton you faded away in.
Less than your empty closets,
the clothes divided among us.
We dress up your nothingness in sweaters and hats,
pass our hands over your things. Drape grief around us
until it becomes our own skin,
starts to smell like us.
In the seconds before dawn you are intermittent.
Like the magpies chirping outside my window
trying to decide if it’s time yet, if the day has begun.
I lie there between your death and your life,
remembering, forgetting. Breathe the past in my sleep.
Wake to the birds in full voice now.
How can we forgive these days?
Stumbling around, dragging you behind,
scraping out each day from the night before.
We are skilled in loss—
With the dulled knife, we pare you down to
nothingness, again and again.
We whittle an ease from your hard absence.