what does death look like

sometimes i think about my friend elsa who jumped off the factory chimney

at the age of nine

it seemed too young of an age to die

scalp smashed and brain scattered

her blood left a pattern on the pavement it said

save me

 

sometimes i think about my big brother 

looking happy, with a kind, loving husband

and an adopted daughter on the way

almost finished with the administration

i’d never seen him so happy, looking ten years younger

as if he hadn’t just come back from the war a year prior with a missing limb

the message arrived at our doorstep at four in the morning

(“who would call at such a time?” he grumbled as he picked up his crutch and limped downstairs. i fumbled with my teddy bear, somewhat anxious)

his husband died, run over by a carriage

my big brother joined him a month later

 

sometimes i think about my mom

the strongest and strangest person i know who

had survived both the battlefield and slavery that had bounded her almost half her life

a survivor, a fighter, torn between a war and a household she could barely keep ahold of

she hugged me when i cried and slapped me when i told her to get lost

she was a woman i always and never strived to become, a mother

whom i hated, and loathed, and lashed out at

as often as i left that cramped flat once called home

she died of tuberculosis, good riddance

but i could never write that in her tombstone: 

here lies a mother 

whose life had been wasted on a daughter born out of wedlock

whose name she couldn’t even remember

a child from a client who had beaten her to near death

merely alive  thanks to three unsuccessful attempts at abortion

here lies a nurse and a prostitute

two identities she’d never separated

 

sometimes i think about my little sister

the smartest in our family 

who raised questions at the silliest things

who gave me her fair share of dinner when my mother threw me out to the street and told me to never come back, i yelled get lost and she slammed the door

who hugged me over the litter of needle marks on my arms

who sang me to sleep with her soothing, out of tune voice

whom i swore to protect with all my life

away from my drunken bastard of a father and wretch of a mother

“you’re too good to me” and she asked me why i cried and gave me a loaf of bread

enough to last me until morning

she died of blood loss in a filthy alley surrounded by trash and dirt

blood oozing from her vagina

innocent soul raped, clubbed, stabbed with a knife by the drunkard of a father

who died of blood loss

or maybe it was the mutilation

and no one would stop me from relishing the weight of the sack

and the boat floor soaked up with blood and 

his remnants, diced-up bodies somewhere deep in the ocean

the piranhas would have a field day

 

sometimes i think about my teacher who taught me

to read and write and tell the weather

it would be useful someday she said

creases and lines all over her face

an old woman of wisdom, of kindness, of warmth

taught me how to do simple maths, get more ransom, avoid stray bullets from a gun drunkenly pointed

years of experience had taught her the rules of survival

she bestowed upon me for which i was forever grateful

she died of a stray bullet

the tiny store upon which she made a living robbed and ransacked

old books, broken records, few knick-knacks a mess on the floor

a bullet through and through

her wisdom and knowledge now a monument on the windowsill

no one came to her funeral

 

sometimes i think about the soul who left my body two years ago

hung by a rope, neck snapped by the momentum

tired of the amount of drugs taken over the years

syringes and needle marks, jumping from one overdose to another

lungs cancer, smoking three packs a day, sometimes four

stranglers on the street, serial rapist and killer roaming the city

teachers in the grave, buried two feet under the ground

early grave had had never sounded so beautiful,

i took the opportunity.

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