Poetry 2014 / Volume 45

First Death — Susana Case

I dreamed there was a leak, a corner
of the wallpaper, the green leaves
stained and blistered, the paint cracked
and curled. When I awoke, I thought
it was real, the way it was real
when she died and every morning I awoke

to the same weight on my body,
unfurled along its length, as if a dog
were on me. That call about my mother­—
I was on my knees, cleaning
the floor tile. I reacted mutely,
went back to finish the job.

You know how you know something
will happen, but you don’t know
when? Maybe any day would have been
the day it wasn’t supposed to happen.
I didn’t know what to do, where
the body goes, where I had to go

to fill out forms. I knew there would
be forms with mourning because
even with leaking walls, there’s always
paper, paper on every surface. And what
can we do about it, but paint
and paper over what we know?

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