Three times a day, I ask if she’s eaten. A minute ticks by
as my heartbeat quickens. Another minute, and nausea rises
in my throat. My phone lights up with a response.
As if someone has stopped squeezing my heart, it settles,
and I thank her for eating, for keeping it down. Now I wait again
to see whether she needs any more convincing that she should.
The fear of asking has stopped me before, but it’s worse when I don’t.
If she doesn’t tell me now, I’ll find out tomorrow when we’re holding
hands on the sidewalk and suddenly her legs buckle beneath her;
when we’re kissing on the swings and her head falls backwards,
body slackening in my grip. People wonder why I cling to her arm
when we cross campus but she could stumble at any moment.
My eyes are always scanning hers, searching for that telltale flutter,
those parted lips, that sudden exhalation when her body fails.
This week she ate, mostly. By the fifth day, I’d forgotten to ask,
and on the seventh day she collapsed. My muscles screamed
at the sudden weight as her body slammed into mine.
As slowly as I could bear, I lowered it on the pavement.
Counting to thirty, I held my breath and waited, swallowing
against my churning stomach. If she didn’t open her eyes
by thirty seconds, I’d call someone—I didn’t know who—
a doctor, her sister, anyone who might tell me what to do.
At fifteen seconds, she sat up and wept in my arms, apologizing.
My voice cracked as I asked her if she’d eaten.
Imagine if at any given time someone could choke or slap
or scream at your sister
and all you could do is try and convince them not to
from the other end of the phone.
And sometimes they listen,
but sometimes they don’t,
or they don’t ask at all.
You learn later when you see
On those long weekends,
you rest in a widow’s house
and eat more than you could stomach
all week at home. In the other room,
your brother sleeps, and you promise
to get through the next four days
to see him again.
the sun on your back becomes your friend—
anything warm is good. If you are feeling,
you can still smile. When customers come
to the window and hand you two dollars
for a hot dog, you learn to thank them.
No matter which bed you sleep in,
you learn to clutch the rosary closer
to your chest each time. Maybe
the white knuckles and sweaty palms
will prove your devotion. You know
you are probably not happy, but
one day ten years from now you might
wear a white dress and kiss someone you love.
Your brother would walk you down the aisle
even if your father won’t. You wonder
when your heart became the enemy.
You wonder if it will ever be anything else.
Embrace the nothing of the night
with your bodies, creating something,
a light of your own. Settle with the silence
and let your breath together be all.
Carry this moment in your heart
when the sun rises, and the memory
will carry you. There was love, once;
there will always be love. One day
the sun will not rise and there will still be love.
should become a holy word on your lips.
Fingers brush skin with a softness you did not know
you had. This is truth – love is truth. The hardness
of the past lied to you. The sharp edges in your heart
are lying, the holes in your spirit could not have known
better. Love will teach you butterfly kisses
and grace on your fingertips, light in your veins.