While You Were Sleeping

                        —For Ariana

There was so much noise, it might have
knocked our apartment onto its side
like a bystander toppled in a stampede

had it not been for the collective weight
of feet holding the floor against the neighbors’
ceiling. Noise so striking, you could see

conversations colliding in mid-air, one
climbing over the other to escape the plunge,
strong words clobbering weaker ones,

that free-for-all, fight to the finish spirit
in which Spanish banter lives and dies.
You had been raving about this party for weeks,

whirling your little brother around the house
in anticipation of your cousins’ arrival,
the pandemonium that would ensue once they

flipped your room on its head, the presents
and the cake, flames leaping atop all those
candles, rising like magic after each cousin’s

puff. And your favorite part, “Cumpleaños feliz”
sung to the birthday cousins across a flurry
of melodies, your voice reverberating after

the last note faded. If you had been there
you would have dipped your finger in the frosting.
But you were sick and slept through it all:

the doorbell that always sent your feet aflutter,
people tornadoing into the house with bags
of food and swim gear and assorted paraphernalia

you would otherwise have rummaged through,
flinging questions this way and that.
Your name an interrogative on everybody’s tongue.

All morning, even as you lay shivering under
a fleece blanket, a washcloth spread across
your forehead, the characters in the cartoon

you were watching on your tablet dallying,
for the most part, across your eyelids,
you beseeched the time gods to wind the clocks

a little faster. Beseeched the morning clouds
to sink in the blue swell of the sky. The wind
to catch on the corner of something sharp

and collapse so that you and your cousins
would be allowed to go down to the pool.
Stroking your back, I knew what you didn’t:

that soon your body would curl around
your oversized stuffed dog as you snoozed.
That afterwards, I would make your tears my own.

Julie Weiss found her way back to poetry in 2018 after slipping into a nearly two-decade creative void. In 2019, she was a Best of the Net nominee. In 2020, she was a finalist in Alexandria Quarterly’s first line poetry contest series and a finalist for The Magnolia Review’s Ink Award. Recent work appears in Praxis Magazine, Anti-Heroin Chic, Kissing Dynamite, and others, and she has poems in a handful of anthologies as well. Originally from California, she teaches English in Spain, where she lives with her wife and two young children. You can find her on Twitter (@colourofpoetry) or on her website at https://julieweiss2001.wordpress.com.

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