Carrie DeBacker, Monarchs (gouache on paper)

I won’t enter her sparse rooms

and see her towels placed
on the floor for seats

the words of the Shema
scrawled on her walls.

She keeps no company
except her dog, for months

she has lived in her car, 
(or a hotel sometimes on weekends)

she and the dog in the car
eating cheap take-out sandwiches
sharing the greasy meat from inside waxed paper,

but she has a place now.
I won’t join them
for the meal she’s fixed.


This time it isn’t yet a decade
since I saw her last

she is widowed,
her estranged Alaskan man dead.

We move from empty room
to empty room in the cold
Colorado cabin where she shut the heat off,

my fingers numb as we stack boxes
in the box truck.

I handle hundreds of packets of rosy
duck sauce and fermented soy sauce from the kitchen’s drawers,
awkwardly, they slide through my fingers into the last bag of trash.

The drawer for knives bursts with throw-away
plastic utensils still in cellophane, crumpled napkins,
paper packets of salt and pepper wedged into the cracks.

I would rather close it.

In the closet I find a blue nylon duffle bag
too hefty to lift, contents cascading:
water, canned food with the labels peeled,
a hammer, poles, and tent stakes.


The longer we are apart
the more I recognize
her flash in me:

I smile amused when I am not.
Her stunted laugh
and jangled tone
shapes my mouth.
She bubbles behind my eyes
makes the room foreign.
I pinch my nails into my palm
to become me again
to think like me.

Think like her
they will hold everything against you
they will send you to the doctor
close you in a room
with midnight thoughts.

She’s the tourniquet around
my throat—

the dark stone
turning in me.


I twist and turn my stone within

I clean it with spit
polish obsidian

someone taught me to breathe
half-breaths to keep
my lungs clenched

he says You know you’re grunting
between each breath
yes I say yes

I suffocate in the shallows
my airless head drifts

away from her away from me

give me your night eyes
give me your seeds

he doesn’t hear her
in my flattened voice

none of them do


Rachel Sahaidachny


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