in memory of someone who may not be dead

in memory of someone who may not be dead

in memory of someone who may not be dead 1920 1080 alyssa hanna

for lillaree

she was getting her doctorate on the last island she owns
in my memory’s receding
fogbank. it’s been thirteen years
and i’d always figured she’d be
dead by now, but there she was, eyeless and smiling.
she usually only emerges from the old south
oaks in february, yet i swear to god, i saw her last night,
receiving a diploma with hands
made of old scar tissue, no signs of open wounds festering
on the world’s boniest wrists.

i have no right to beg
for her forgiveness, or ask our old physician if she ever
got better. if she ever was able to go
a day without nurses
strapping her down, sliding a horse tranquilizer
into her only “good” vein, if
she was ever able to go home—and if she did go home
did her mother apologize for sharing her bed every night,
or selling her to an uncle in lieu of rent— if
she ever found another copy of that book i lent her
but foolishly took back because
i did not know i was allowed to leave
anything behind in that hospital room we shared— no
gifts, just the stale air i used
to breathe.
when we were supposed to be sleeping
she told me that she never celebrated her birthday. she said she was
a pisces but i don’t think she was the pisces of a steady sea;
she was the pisces of a storm
surge, a collection of so much lost water looking
for a place to rise.

she got her degree in disproving
doctors, even graduated with honors
on a full scholarship. i think she saw
my white guilt showing,
saw my red tongue bleeding.
i cannot bring myself to remember the exact curvature of her face
but her eyes were so big and brown that they never appear
when i see her, and if you cut my years in half
i can find myself there
with her, thirteen and scared and whimpering for
help but being told we are not allowed to see
the sky, and i don’t know what exactly i would change
but god, i would change so much.
i would change everything.

Header photograph © Asher.

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