For the ones we lost,
and we were never ready to lose.
Special thank you to The Starry Plough Pub!
I am in 4th grade when our class watches a video about our bodies and sex,
how things will change,
cartoon depictions of anatomy,
giggling from Tommy and Ricky,
Two girls with ringlet curls too embarrassed to watch,
so they bury their faces in skin.
I mimic the nerves of my peers,
but see, I kind of already know about sex and the proper words like
vagina and penis.
Because my parents talked to me about this stuff,
Held an open door policy
Questions never afraid to be asked,
so they were always answered.
Freshman year in health class, we learn even more.
We learn about things like STDs and protection.
Girls come in and speak about their experiences with teen pregnancy.
Bodies are not quite as funny anymore,
We see drawings of sperm swimming and where exactly the clitoris is located,
though some men still can’t find it…
Everything is explained.
But they do not tell us what death looks like.
I have seen pictures in textbooks
of things like herpes or the implantation of the egg in the uterus,
but nobody paints a picture of the grim reaper.
No class prepares you for what it looks like,
How death has a smell,
That it permeates the room,
The air becomes so thick
that sometimes you can almost taste it.
I am 16 when I first taste it
He is shrinking day by day,
this man who was never embarrassed
to talk to me about things other fathers shied away from.
I am 16 when I clean vomit stained sheets
and stay up all night with my ear pressed to the wall
so I can listen for his labored breathing.
I am 16 when cancer hits my world
in a way I never anticipated I would have to learn.
We are just a family of three.
Spilling honesty at the dinner table,
I remember it like a triangle of safety
someone once told me
this was a new theory on how to protect yourself during an earthquake,
Create a triangle of safety
and that’s what we did
in that small family of three.
Until adenocarcinoma asks for a plate,
pulls up a chair,
invites itself to every moment,
resting inside my father’s gall bladder,
working it’s way up his chest.
It becomes so greedy,
It stops my father from eating.
I am sick all the time,
but I am not the one dying.
Where is the pamphlet on how I’m supposed to survive?
I want to scream at my principal,
every instructor there trying to teach me,
Where is the manual
for my heart to keep beating
when his ceases?
Nobody can tell me.
Nobody can tell me.
That’s the thing about death,
that even with a doctor’s note
and a ticking clock,
nobody can tell me
how I’m supposed to stop my own bleeding.