I don’t know what made me think

that life is always less painful

than death as I’ve seen it be,

for the dying.


Sometimes they seem so quiet

surrendered to us, clothes cut off, placid.

Your flooded face, waterlogged and white, they dredged you from

the edge of the river

a whisper of activity still left in your chest.


You came to us bleached, waxen, wet.

Mouth a sickening summer popsicle blue.

Your fluvial fingers, wrinkled just so, to tell us a story

of how you dove somewhere on the other side of the sky.


I don’t know what made me think

anyone could be old enough, worn enough

to not hold their breath through this.

The way we pressed down upon you, hard,

over and over, before

the electric beeps announced your departure.

A declaration of your drowning through the small digital mouth

of a cardiac monitor gone loud, turned silent.


From these things I must learn to turn away,

to reemerge into the world sane, unhindered.

Able to sit on the couch, microwave a golden pizza,

to still feel sorry for myself like people do.


Your death must become nothing more than

a small interruption, a phone call, spilled milk.

I want to apologize for this, but know I cannot.

How else can we resume?


We wash our hands, we drink diet soda, our lungs are dry.

We use the interstate to get home but sometimes it feels

Like I need a passport to leave that place

The customs so different, the locals keep dying.


In ten days I will get $12.50

for watching you leave your life behind.

I arrive home late, I toast to

the breakers and rollers of your hair, the aquatic blueing

in your eyes, now closed. Rivulets of veins across

such a narrow canyon of neck, what delicate bones.


You are a torrent,

a deluge to me, a winding lesson in

tributaries and modifiers, in straddling two places with weak knees.

I am not good at this yet, at removing your rapids from my evening wine,

at taking a shower without some small panic,

at moving between this double life.


The next morning

some sidewalk chalk says:

spirit lead me

to where

faith knows

no bounds.


And I don’t know what spirit that refers to but ma’am


you fell into a river and inhaled.




Sonja Halvorson is a poet currently getting her Master’s in Physician Assisting at Oregon Health Sciences University in Portland. Halvorson is fascinated by the uniquely vulnerable human environment of the hospital. Prior to starting school, she spent three months in Montevideo, Uruguay writing her forthcoming book, “Notes from Nightshift.”

Issue #68 March 2017
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