I kneel to you
in absolution: Forgive me, lover,
for I have sinned. It has been three days
since I last thought of you, over two months
since I spoke
your name out loud. I brought you
these flowers from my mother’s garden:
lavender, statice, Michaelmas daisies.
She still can’t remember
your name; I have stopped
reminding her. You used to come to me
in dreams; once, floating
outside a second-story window,
you beckoned. I stepped back,
then awoke, nervous and guilty.
For nine years
now I’ve carried the burden
of you like a secret child; I have not spoken
often enough of what it was to know
you. I can’t remember
your birthday—is it the third or the fifth? By now
your hair would be thinning and your mustache
thick. Your twin brother is heavy and dull;
You will never face his fate. He is like some cruel
computer-aged representation. It’s only his voice
that throws me, raspy and cracked,
like yours. And his lips.
I have had impure thoughts.
This is what your mother said to me,
here in this spot, as she handed me your casket’s
blue ribbon: you were the love of his life.
Have mercy on me,
I have never visited her, but the ribbon fit
nicely in the depths
of my wedding bouquet. Seven years now
I have been married to a man you
never knew, two children who look like
him. I must have forgotten
how, in the pain of afterdeath, I swore
I would name my son for you.
It’s all coming back to me now.
Your crooked teeth and bony knees.
~Sarah Cummins Small, copyright 1999
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