a poem by Jessi Harrison

There are spider webs in the corner where you hide your demons.
I pick the lint from the dryer vent & stare at the cavernous
hole in the basement wall. The one that the energy company
told the landlords to fix last fall, but it got buried with loose snow,
& clouded breath, & late rising full moons, & temporary sanctuary
of concern. Or maybe they told me to tell the landlords to fix the
hole, & I forgot. Like I forgot to buy you that ice cream years ago in summer,
when the truck rolled by, singing that sticky song on repeat, slightly obnoxious;
out of tune, & flat. You laughed as you fell from your bike, watching me
try to pedal fast enough to keep the truck from turning the corner.
I skidded to a halt, making sure you were okay – promised if you got up
& we caught the doey-eyed, greasy teenager gunning that summer job down
to the metal sparks, that I’d buy you every single scoop of cone there was to offer.
We never caught the truck. & at some point, (I’m not sure when)
you stopped getting up. & at some point (even further down the line)
I stopped asking you to. & then I stopped promising you prizes
if you took one more step. If we just made it in time. If you didn’t
simply lie in bed, waiting for the sunset, like you watched the sunrise –
from under the covers.
You argued that there were more burnt oranges & blood reds at night, & more
hazel greens & grapefruit pinks in morning. You said it was because
the day wasn’t jaded yet. & didn’t know the slightest thing about how
one simple action could turn its hue. You said this as you faught
the pills being placed on your tongue. You said you could taste
the white dissolve. & no matter how many doctors prescribed
a different cocktail of cure, you swore it was all placebo. You asked,
over & over & over & over if I had placed your name, unwittingly,
on some trial study that the FDA had yet to fund. There are so
many synonyms for YES. There is one concrete syllable for NO.
So here I am again, daydreaming in dungeons & folding my clean sheets like
were never dirtied. Like you never left a stain. Thinking of how thick, & dense,
& unforgiving the Carolina dirt was, even before we laid your bones in a plot
you bought the morning after he died. Thinking of how your demons, in their
spiderwebbed & syrupped glory, have slowly, with flippant breath & fragile debt,
made their web in this corner. In my basement ceiling. As if to remind
me of all the things I didn’t bring myself to do to keep you. Insinuating that I
could have played any other hand than the one dealt from your deck.
Like I cheated in a game where only you knew the rules. You’re still the only
person I’ve known who could lose everything, including life, & still call it a win.