“Raise Your Hand” by Jamie Grefe

I don’t remember such red hair or the way you stuck out your belly for the taxi. It was raining tar and the bus, too full to enter, stuffed of city stink. But this tremble is a fist in my mouth, a palpitation of being lonely. Hear it echo in stutters and fits. When she says, “raise your hand,” I’m a reed. When she says, “What does that mean,” I’m a dancing loon. At night I send morse code to strange phone numbers as if so many combinations of failure will one day add up to a beep that may be your voice come back to haunt. This ghost town is a fever since you’ve up and gone. Tuesday I will walk to school, follow pebbles in circles until I realize your name is spelled in cloud-drips and melted hale. I dreamt a confession where you told me you were dying and I still scribble notes in class, charcoal smudged shards in the desk. It’s become my glove. This is me talking to Ms. Hosanna after school with the whip marks on my knuckles. Here I am on the monkey bars above the world again, almost tall enough to step over buildings, crush this city to bits. I received an omen in the mail today, just a blank envelope. When I opened it, birds flew down my throat and told me stories of how you were doing so well, fine, just settling in. That’s why I peddled my bicycle through fields and over bricks to the golden city without end. I figure such brightness, such cool warmth as glimpsed from inside that envelope’s whiteness could only come from the depths of emptiness and this place is an empty cup. I’ve brought along my desk, my notes, and Ms. Hosanna has been trailing me from above, swinging, banging those trees. Those trees are brains so loud I feel them thinking me on to this house and this one and this one, but you are not in any one of these. Not yet. But you are near like a disease and if I didn’t have this one word, “near,” I might find myself already back inside you or, worse: I might always be one pace or five million miles buried, and if I pull out my ear to dig around and find this sloppy mess of a heart still beating, I can sense you waving at me in the drumroll of a somber ceremony, and that wave is singing, “come closer, come closer to light. It’s alright to touch fire. Trust me.” And I do.

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