Praying Twice

Whenever someone says “Ben”
I think first of my older brother.
My mother might be bittersweetly
happy that he is alive in that way.

I know if I tell her this she will
respond with the story of
when they brought him home
from the hospital to die and
that he lasted for seven days.

She often tells stories more than once.
Sometimes I will interrupt to say
I have heard this one before
and sometimes I listen to words
whose endings I already know.

I listen about Ben,
thinking that it might be
helpful, that it might be like
praying the same prayer twice.

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Ten Years

I inherited his eyebrows
I got his jawline too, but
didn’t know it until long
after he was gone, when
one day Mom sent me a
photograph of their early
adventures; seeing him
also in his 30s, I thought
I am a girl version of him

To reach the point when
we can narrate our story
objectively, rather than
remember only to grieve

Ten years will do that

(adapted from an essay written February 19, 2018)

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How I Am Faring

I had to count them, and in doing this realized
not one or two but several months had passed
enough in quantity that like corralled cattle
they seemed (in retrospect) so very close that
one loses count of the blur and only today
I thought about coming up on nine months

At times I have woken up bathed in loss but
I have also done what a woman who finds
herself alone for such lengths would do
which is to build a dam across a river
once rising so high it drowned the birds

Some days I am visited by butterflies but
find it best not to think of animals as signs
The only path is to accept this as-is in the
absence of hope; this mindset is workable
like a scratched but steady end table and
the blouse I wear despite its missing button

(Spring 2017)

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