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Here, I do not need to coax the sound—
No more tremulous plucks, bated breath,
Muting my voice as it slips from my throat
Here,
It falls as a gift, freely given
Resonant as thunder in the mountains
Bold and beautiful.
How brightly I burn
When I do not have to ask
To be heard.
Longing is trammeled in my throat
Oh the honeyed years
Before I knew what to miss,
Untrusted, unspoken
I exhale its blue haze
Between the last note sung
And the first note heard.
You are the wonted dream—
The consoling ache
Wearing away at softened bones
With every wish
Unheard, unanswered
The stars are so beautiful and so cruel
Our untethered threads
Adrift in the firmament
Uncut
Yet untied.
The cliff’s monumental resolve
Plucks the sustained note of its rise
over the wayward valley,
Sound thick and heavy enough to chew,
A nameless taste of memory
calls to mind
Seven years ago
When a woman who shared my name
Threw herself from the cliff,
Into the snapped arms of trees below,
The act of falling, monumental resolve
The upward sweep of dark hair
Against the grey hand of the rock.

After,
my mother’s phone rang
with urgent voices
repeating my name as they’d heard it
On the evening news
Asking if it was me who had climbed
the bones of the mountain,
I who had stared down into the doldrum of trees,
watched them float in the captive air,
I who had murmured into the reticent sky
And still found no answer
That whispered “stay.”
I, who had scraped the soft skin of my foot across sandstone
With the last grounding pull
And still stepped into nothing.

And when she said I had not
That the name, though mine, was not mine,
I heard the relief in the notes of their voices
Collapsing into soft reprieve.

But I knew what it was
To wonder if the plummet was
like the upward flutter of coat in a draft or
The cold sweep of wind across a wet finger or
the warm, couching blast of a passing subway car.

And they don’t report on suicides for this reason
But everyone hoped it was an accident
Because accidents can be explained away
As the things that pluck us up and drop us into death,
But walking into death
With open eyes always led to too many questions.

Someday, she and I--
our name will be said for the last time
Edging on the ledge of wrinkled lips
Staring into the ground below—
And the syllables will hold themselves over the edge of the world
And jump.
Based on a true story. A woman who shared my name died by suicide in my hometown.
Signposts

The signposts at the end of her life
Swam in watery fades
I don’t know if she had time
To forget how to read
But there were no books in her room
Just the echoing call of an uncertain bird
As we pointed the feathers out to her through the dusty blinds.
And later
When she was gone
I could not cry—
everything I knew of her
slipped beneath a frozen surface
Running like the sound of water
In underground caves
Unburst and unfelt.
I asked for a blood letting,
For him to stay with me
While I found something sorrowful enough
To bring the memories to the vein’s surface
And he held me while I sobbed
At a mother feeding her starving daughter
Trying to save her from herself.
I do not know
If my grief stays buried so deep
To keep the surface waters calm
Or if it had dried, and isn’t there at all
And I am digging a well
For an imagined thirst.
Prompt from a friend: The signposts at the end of her life
Tuesday: a squalling jolt of surprise sorrow
And I am holding a flood behind my lips
Mouth pressed to the leak,
While the sadness glides through me like a body under ice
Faceless, unnamed specter
Caressed in the current’s deadly beauty
While I stand voiceless, holding this sudden sorrow
Like a half-rotted memory.
Who is it for?
What tattered thread snapped
left a frayed chalk line
At the back of my neck.
Morbidly, I wonder if one of the men I’ve loved is dead
If this stranger grief
Is the last sinew of intimacy
torn asunder.
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