By Shon Houston
Over the span of leaving home
I attempted to remember you in poetic ways.
Like the way your fingers were a backyard off Gettysburg Ave.
And your eyes were a crystalized oak tree in the winter.
Beautiful and always melting.
You spent your afternoons doing oddly romantic things.
You would sit in your favorite blue chair
Turn on your stories
And try ti forget that grandpa died in a hospital holding your hands
While not recognizing your face
Just your hands.
Your living room is the first funeral that I didn’t count on.
The smell of yesterday,
A cringed nose of lemon scented furniture polish and something
Passing away early one Saturday morning
Before the sun swallowed you whole
Filled the hallway of that apartment building.
My uncle’s adult head lynched in the hammock of my tiny arms
Felt unbelievably strange.
Your door was open, I knew what I was going to see.
I saw you, soul slipping through the floor of that tiny room,
I felt like there could have been a pond in my throat.
There is no other way that I can tell you just how much I was drowning.
It would be years later,
That same uncle would have gripped my hand
For the last time in August.
I imagine him with you.
I still haven’t been able to quite catch my breath.
Only a month ago I couldn’t remember your phone number.
Someone called from it once.
I thought it was a joke.
I didn’t laugh. Just kept crying because I couldn’t bring myself to answer.
Always wondering if it was you,
Telling me that you forgot something.
That you weren’t fully ready to go
You just missed your husband so much.
I imagine that loneliness
Being an anchor dragging along the ocean floor of your spine.
Secretly, I feel that if I am not asleep by 2 am
My ears will gather a minefield of nicknames that you would call me
They would gather like sunflowers
And unknowingly I would fold them in half
Tuck them into an envelope
And address them to your tiny apartment because they still belong to you.
As you cupped your children’s faces into your ribs
Cradled them like whispers
All as if they were not adults
And pulled yourself from their tangible existence.
I wanted to be mad at you
But that phone call
One Thursday evening out of nowhere
It changed everything
And I didn’t even answer.
When I wrote that poem, I was struggling to find the purpose of committing people to memory, like memorizing a poem. I have trouble memorizing pieces, always have. But I can recount the details of people. I can always link them with things that appeal to my senses.
I remember two of the most important people to me in details like colors and scents. Shortly after my grandmother passed, I got a phone call from her previous number. Her apartment was now being leased to someone else, phone was of course in a different name, so when I got the call it was a feeling that came over me, like seeing a ghost. I had yet to bring myself to take her contact info out of my phone so her name came up and everything. I always wondered would that phone call be the closure I was looking for.
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