The Dead by Maura O’Connor

one by one, they were all becoming shades…
—James  Joyce

I fled your deaths.
They happened anyway.

Me,
the missing witness.

Michael,
I will miss you most.

The roses you gave me
the night you told me
you hated me.

The song you wrote
comparing my eyes

to ocean

my dreams

to rainbow.

It wasn’t a good song.
I said it was.

The only unoccupied space
to talk
was the bathroom.

You on the toilet
holding your guitar.

Me on the counter,
legs dangling over.

I remember how cold I felt,
saying

get clean—
I’ll think about it
if you’re clean.

You said
you could do it for me,
if I cared.

Sharon pounding on the door
screaming

hurry up and snort
you guys,
I need to puke.

I remember you
holding Sharon,
washing her face
like a little girl’s.

Dan,
I miss you too.
Your dreadlocks,
your Bob Marley records…

You called my boyfriend
a pseudohippie,

an Elvis impersonator
with hair.

I’ve always wanted
to use that line.

I still have the postcard
you made—
my face on Marilyn Monroe’s body

remembering the night you said
only the dumb
die young?

Chris,
you asshole.
Your tackle box
with pills arranged
by color and shape,
the girlfriend who stole it.

You said you had to
get drunk
to sit through
an AA meeting.

Get stoned
to go to church
with your mother.

You boasted to Michael
that we fucked
in the front seat
of your green hornet

I got violent
scratched your face.

I still have the black dress
you ripped
sometimes I miss you too.

Michael,
there are things
I never told you.

I was so proud
when you got clean,

so jealous watching you kiss Sharon,
coaxing the bottle
from her hands.

The letter you sent
hurt.

Today I read it again.

A letter in a dead hand…

Dan is gone
Chris is gone
Sharon tested positive

Michael
I’m sorry too.

You said
someday I would write this.

I thought when I did
you would read it.

artist: irune bo

Originally published in Zeitgeist Press
Maura O’Connor has written poetry from a young age. She showed up at the Cafe Babar around 1989, and her poetry brought a great deal of notice. She was long associated with the poet David Lerner, who died in 1997. She is the author of The Hummingbird Graveyard and The Testimony, produced by Zeitgeist Press. Her story is best told in her poems.