Issue Thirty-One - Winter 2018

What I Brought to Your Grave

By Jimmy Pappas

You were just a young girl when you saw
that couple on Turtle Beach find that living
creature in a shell. The man said, Let’s go back
to the car and get the cigarette lighter.
You asked me to explain what that meant.
I called the thing inside a slug that they needed
to get out, so they could take the shell home.
You still didn’t get it and asked again about the lighter.
While I considered a delicate way of telling you,
I could see that your brain had already figured it out.
You ran after the couple with me chasing you
and calling out your name. You screamed at them
not to hurt it. But it was too late. On the ground,
the still living animal squirmed. The man turned
to his wife and asked, What’s her problem?

I think everything started on that day.
Your eating habits changed.
There was the nose ring, the tattoos.
The silence. I couldn’t take it any more
and left you for your mother to deal with.
Your weight plummeted. You couldn’t eat meat,
but you could eat a bullet. It’s funny.
Sometimes I think it bothered me more
facing everyone at the funeral
than facing up to your death.

I hung around for a week.
I waited for an all-clear moment
to visit your grave. I wanted
to apologize for the lighter incident.
I felt somehow to blame.
I left an empty shell by the stone.

Copyright 2018 Pappas