Mike L. Nichols
is a graduate of Idaho State University and a recipient of the Ford Swetnam Poetry Prize. He lives and writes in Eastern Idaho. Look for his poetry in Rogue Agent, Tattoo Highway, Ink&Nebula, Plainsongs Magazine, and elsewhere. Find more at deadgirldancing.net
(“After Her Death” – Meghan O’Rourke)
I existed in a netherworld
She and I trudged past each other
caved deep in cloud cover
separated by the whitening road
and a mounded shale of gutter
plowed snow as if we weren’t
each obvious to the other.
I’d learned how to disallow
visuals of my sister’s small
coffin by then. Buried in flowers,
that polished box was immense.
Large enough to disappear
an entire five-year-old in.
Did visions of satin lined
mahogany accost my mother
as she negotiated treacherous
sidewalks delivering Avon
and preparing to perform
her own magic box trick?
Since then I’ve walked
my snow boots thin
searching out the entrance
to the chamber where I suspect
their bones are whispering,
insisting they still exist.
This is my bedroom, but these glowing buttons
are not my bed. Barrel-bellied puppies tug-of-war
with my intestines. I make myself mimic the squealing.
Outside the window is night that feels like 2 a.m.
with blank faces intermittently appearing through the panes.
I’m begging for one of them, please, to bring another pill but
my throat is prickly dry, my voice barely a quiet croaking.
The thing I liked was ice-chips. The gravel sound of a spoon
digging down, soothing. They’d glide around my mouth on their
own melt. I try to think when the pain wasn’t braided in me,
cleavering my breath. I don’t complain that they never bring the pill
soon enough. I think to ask them how they’d like it. An I.V. is rumored
to be set up soon. I ask where. They answer, by the bookshelf. I ask what for.
I recall the vague, wet movement of a mouth, but not the sound of an answer.