Karine Leger, Dénouement (acrylic on canvas)

Not on purpose you kept
your death for yourself, stepped

from the shower unaware
bade blood could forget
to answer. Arrhythmia.

Crimeless victim. Your ❤ 
stopped because your heart

stopped. Hidden until the deed
had spelled itself into hours. Until
you'd missed work, worried

people insufficiently to match
the undoing they encountered,

the few still-damp curls to say
that in the morning the body
had been sitting down to its usual

feast of intention. The wrong
not so much committed as wrought.


Two years since your younger brother
took the first turn—broken
ankle, blood clot. Then, your parents

bought four gravesites, looking
to the far future, they thought.

Of course they neglected your husband, 
the vows, the silk ties, the house
amongst ivy and so on. At that time

believing in a lesser severity
of love between men, expecting

you'd relinquish such unseemliness
when the weakness of the flesh
no longer held sway. They've since

relented, a marvel I wish you hadn't
had to lose your sight to see.


Now, we stand watch
at your mother's beside. Illness
ranging her organs, nothing

particularly nameable. Auto-
. We say she's dying

of grief—diagnosis
for a British novel of manners
but the work is athletic,

impolite. Her face lit
with effort, breath Herculean,

machinery cheering from box seats
as the knee jabs hospital
sheets, as the arms & legs

puppet to center, as the body
racks from arch

to embryonic, unfavored toy
in a toddler's bored hands. 
All this for no

final flush of victoryonly
the little scripts we scribble

and stuff in each other's pockets: 
he and he left without lingering, 
she lingered, then left.


Emily Van Kley