I had thought we’d said everything we needed to say
when you were in the hospital
and the nurses were running around
trying to figure
out how to make you more comfortable.
Would you like some more water?
But I continued to have entire conversations
with you in my head. Now, no one speaks.
You died of a virus no one knew the name of.
And when scientists found a name,
our parents declared that people like you
deserved to die.
No one would touch you.
No one from family went to your funeral.
Your body was burned.
Trees lose leaves in winter. Every year birds return
to lusher resorts. No one thing ever leaves,
I tell myself, falls away completely.
When does it become unreasonable to cry?
I lay lilacs next to your headstone,
all of our family now gone, trace the letters
in your name, round out vowels
with my fingertips, shallowed out
beyond recognition to anyone but me.
I was heard talking to myself,
of why it happened
when Hamlet wandered in looking for Ophelia,
who was looking in a mirror to find herself,
and I found myself peering
in that same mirror brushing the shower steam
aside as if I were still parting
clouds to find out what lay behind them,
you lying beside me in a nest in a tree,
an egg broken open, devoured,
your bed falling to the floor,
sheets descending, melting on the ground,
a network of light switches
in a house we no longer inhabit.
And there you are, standing beside me
holding my hand again,
a photo, the two of us, our hair anointed by light
healing our years apart.
Years later, when the two of us died,
I came to understand
why Ophelia was thought to have drowned herself
looking up as if to say what if,
wreathed in a flowerbed of watery asters,
mad with reason.
And you started talking again
when I wasn’t looking for you
in a garden of the same name,
my hand turning the soil over
and over as if I might find you there.
That was then. And afterward,
this is now, running my fingers
through my hair as if it were your eyes
staring back at me,
as if it were your body of flowers,
your mouth open,
your hair tying up loose ends of water.
Mitchell Untch is an emerging writer. His publications include Beloit Poetry Journal, Poet Lore, North American Review, Confrontation, Nimrod Intl, Natural Bridge, Owen Wister, Solo Novo, Knockout, Baltimore Review, Lake Effect, The Catamaran Reader, Grey Sparrow, Illuminations, Tusculum Review, Telluride Institute, West Trade Review, and Wax Paper, among others.
Cover Design by Karen Rile