The day that she died,
I made sure to set all the clocks back two hours. I don’t know what kind of person likes to know the exact time that their life ended, but I am not one of them.
I take the shards of the broken glass from where the window has been broken in by an unseen fist and I trace my reflection in their eye. Already, I cannot recognize myself. Already I am older and it has only been twenty minutes since I have received the news that my sister has died.
For five years, the tears within my throat sealed themselves away, unwilling to let anything beckon them forth. My body was a salt mine, an ocean full of shipwreck, as I treaded those years unaware that my body was betraying me. Unaware that this trauma had found me like a thief in the night, taking my youth away with it under its skin, leaving my mother broken in her body, sobbing on the kitchen floor.
I don’t know how many times I can keep repeating this story, of the boy with the lantern clutched in his fist, moving through the night thinking he was a warrior, because when you are stripped of everything that made you human, when you cannot even trust the air around you, what are you left to be but a fighter? Tyler Durden in the flesh spoke to me when I was sixteen years old and offered me another way to destroy my world. I took it with eyes wide open.
But when the story lives as you do, drinking from cups of coffee, attending two years of college in Minnesota, lying stripped bare in a bed that a woman you thought was your friend has forced you into, you realize that this story is evolving as you do, this story is a companion that you will not shake. You invite it into your life. You watch it with crumpling eyes as it tells you another reminder that you will never meet your sister’s children. You watch it with exhaustion, wondering, “How can I still be hearing this same story? Seven years later, I have given my pounds of flesh, what more do you want from me?”
I have learned that past is always present, she is a tired woman with broken wings asking for a seat at the table. When you deny her, she is prone to become violent, she will strip down the walls of your house until you are naked and the wind is carving its own truth into your back. Or you may invite her to dinner. Serve her a tomato soup that your mother is famous for, she will remember it will, she will eat like she has not eaten in seven years, and as you watch her you will remember. You will remember that you cannot ever forget. Your sister is a woman of the night now, instructing you how to put your life onto a page, she watches you with all the sympathy that her eyes can muster. All that she asks is that you look back at her, and remember how far you have come since your throat was sealed off from the rest of the world, since the only way to shed a tear was to beat your body into an unholy submission.
All that she is asking now for is a prayer: to let your body recover the flesh it has already given to pain. To know that you and she will always be the last two alone together in any given room.
Ian Powell-Palm is a writer, poet, and musician currently living in Bozeman, Montana. You can find out more about his poetry and his future readings at his Facebook page, Powell-Palm Poetry.