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with Jesus

Heather Kirn-Lanier

Before Writing Back to a Friend Whose Mother is Dying, You Stare...

Before writing back to a friend whose mother is dying, you stare...
at the empty fireplace.

Don’t make it a metaphor.

That the soot in the fireplace has smothered
every brick but where the fire burned,
that the bricks now hold a ghost
of flames that once flickered there

doesn’t mean anything.
Just write your friend back.

You have to figure out how to fill
an email with nothing
but a bed of silence, and the silence

can’t be empty,
though it must be empty of your own grief.

Your grief is an ornery dog
that wants to play. Tell it to sit.
Then it will offer the obvious from its teeth like a bone:

Metaphors of sunsets will make you both barf.

Everything happens for a reason
is the greeting card from an unlikable god.

This too shall pass is precisely the problem,
the word pass like a swoosh, so fast it’s gone.

Tell her you will lie down next to her. Tell her
whatever mad pulse her heart drums out,
you will let yours do the same.

Do not dare tell her the truth:
That it will be like screaming into a black hole,
the wanting

so bad her body will think it’s grown
a thousand arms,          grabbing what’s gone.

That organs she doesn’t have
will throb inside her.

That she might fall into the black hole
and that no one,
                                   not even you, can join her.

Heather Kirn Lanier is the author of TEACHING IN THE TERRORDOME: TWO YEARS IN WEST BALTIMORE WITH TEACH FOR AMERICA (University of Missouri, 2012), and two award-winning poetry chapbooks, HEART-SHAPED BED IN HIROSHIMA (Standing Rock, 2015), and THE STORY YOU TELL YOURSELF (Kent State U, 2012), winner of the Wick Poetry Open Chapbook Competition. Her book about raising a child with a rare chromosomal syndrome is forthcoming from Penguin Press and Piatkus / Little, Brown UK. 

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