love note to a youthful offender

when i knelt to pray for your soul,
the dew stung my skin and scorched the wilting grass to my knees.
each righteous syllable stuck my lips together
with the sweetness of cherry filling,
and each breath in between caught in my chest
like i was swimming in a pool of vinegar.
and though i wept for you,
the holy waters could not cleanse my tongue.


three calls in immediate succession
buzzed close to my ear and awoke me from a restless sleep
to remind me that you are not here.

possession, i am told.
possession. possession.
of soul,
of self — ?


just Possession.

graphic by Jordan Schmolka

i know you think you are the exception:
 the unless,
 the however.
the safe gamble.
but no gamble is safe when you bet with borrowed time.
these cards you dealt yourself — 
a bad hand, at that, to have among all these x-ray eyes.

you straddle the hour hand between now and never.

you inhale what They want
and exhale smoke rings around Their noses.


o, how i weep for you, child.
you are here without metaphor,
among and within this pewter-gray,
slipping in a grime not of earth but of man.
the echoes of your cries keep you company
until mine can take their place
and bend the bars that rattle and whine like mocking bones.

o, that i could bring you solace,
bury you safe here at my breast.

o, that i could carry your burden upon my narrow frame
and bury you here beside me in this grave
where all shame comes to possess itself,
where all shame gathers to kiss its brothers and sisters

good night.

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