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TOMB OF THE KNOWN SOLDIER.

Updated: Aug 23, 2021

For Emilea


The day I was writing my third poem in a row about suicide, I found your body.


You died like any good penitent,

face tilted up like a sunflower trying to find the sun,

prostrate before God.


Praying.


I go to hope that your prayers didn’t go unheard, then I remember

you

in a halo of harsh bathroom light

and wonder if maybe you got your answer after all.


God and I haven’t spoken in a long time, Emilea.


Neither of us is willing to forget

the long years of missteps between us

that neither of us is big enough to forgive, but

I want you to know that when I saw you there,

half on the linoleum and

half on the carpet,


I asked him about you:


a veteran of some primordial war

waged against self for sanity

on the fields of coma and fever

dream.


Did she go gently into that good night?

I asked, doing my best impression of Dylan Thomas,

Did you see her coming?



Maybe it just doesn’t matter

Whether you were raised by wolves

Or by gossiping historians

if the only language they gave you

is widow-speak


But it’s weeks later and I can still see you

on your knees

in the impact crater

of your own heart,

joy and desire

strewn in pieces around you by the bomb,

our only warning

the whine of ambulances speeding toward the blast center

instead of away from it, and


I go to hope that your prayers didn’t go unheard, but then I remember

you

in a halo of harsh bathroom light and wonder

if


Maybe we’re all just pillars of salt in the making, Emilea.


Maybe looking back is suicide

whether you’re Lot’s wife or

you actually get a name in the stories.


Maybe all any of us is doing is limping toward the dying light.


Maybe swan just happens to be God’s favorite song


and in the end

it doesn’t matter

who sings it.





Note From The Author: I wrote this poem a year ago. I had the...profound experience of finding a body in the hotel where I worked - I say 'body,' because she was long gone by the time she was found. Her name was Emilea. She loved Coke products and drank them like they were water, she had a tentative but genuine smile, and she was polite to people in service even when she was in incredible pain. I think about her every day, so the fact that it's been a whole year since it happened sort of just snuck up on me. I performed this poem live and dedicated it to her and my plan, pre-pandemic, was to perform it every year at about this time so that I don't forget her. It would be a last injustice, I think, a final insult, to let her just be someone who died somewhere. I remember her. I spoke to her. I was the last person to speak to her. She mattered. She matters. Here's to you, Emilea.


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