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Jun 2012
The thick formaldehyde air keeps me awake.
Eight hours on fluorescent lights and lemon water
pins me to this stiff, rigor mortis chair.
Her stifled screams a ward away distract me from
counting the ceiling tiles
Clocks ooze down the wall, time melting in sync
with EKGs and IV drips.
and I, alone with my blanket and Harry
turn to ask him how long we’ve been here
why the sky is blue
how much a soda from the cart might cost
if she’ll be okay.
But he just stares blankly with his cold gorilla eyes
omniscient in his eternal silence.
So I hug him closer to my chest, plastic fur
scratching at the soft spot under my chin.
Dad paces back and forth along the linoleum,
crushing grandmother’s pearls between his teeth
like candy mints.
and I, alone with my blanket and Harry
idly wonder what he’ll pack in my lunchbox tomorrow.

It takes me back -
this dilapidated Christmas card from ’99,
tucked neatly away in a drawer
of condoms and last year’s candy corn.
A family photo from OR #12 wasn’t
So we chose one from the year before.
Three faces plastered on the blood red backing,
Season’s greetings through gritted teeth.
I throw it back into the box
with other useless paraphernalia
I should have never kept.
Reaching deeper, digging through years
like bare fingers through stale grave dirt,
I find her hospital bracelet.
Twist it between my fingers.
Wrap it tight around my wrist,
breathe in the familiar formaldehyde scent.
and I, alone with my blanket and Harry
idly throw it away.
Chelsea McMahon
Written by
Chelsea McMahon  San Antonio, TX
(San Antonio, TX)   
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