this is not a poem written about death
you are on a train underground. it is evening.
there are two dogs on the train, and you hate dogs, but are trying (in general) to hate things like that less often
and with less intensity.
you think of something you once read
about how no one is okay when they listen to “hallelujah”
(jeff buckley or leonard cohen, doesn’t matter which) and soon
there is salty, thin mucus trailing down your throat
because you are trying your hardest not to cry on the train (not that you haven’t before) because you know this isn’t your pain to feel.
and you remember something heartbreaking, and you realize
that every song you ever loved at some point changes and became something new;
songs you had to remove from your vocabulary, maybe. you realize that this phenomenom is happening right now, and that it will continue to happen, possibly forever. you
wonder what you would tell your daughter if she asked about
your tattoo. but your body has already let you know
that it doesn’t want a child inside of it.
you realize that you are crying, and you are on an escalator, and now you are
sitting on the stairs of the metro station, your nose running—
and there is a depth inside of you, and even though your fingers smell
like cigarettes & sweat you put them to your lips and lie down on the tiles and notice for the first time
that a mural is painted on the ceiling.
and you realize that the most beautiful moment of your life cannot be repeated
-because that band doesn’t play anymore
-because those songs don’t mean what they used to
-because the night no longer flickers like that
-because the molly isn’t synthesized the same way -because she is dead
-because no moment can ever be repeated anyway -because she is still dead
-because you are a different person than you have been.
and sometimes just recognizing that the pain you are feeling
in every corner of your body
is part of a tradition of pain that has haunted every person you have
ever met, even the ones who don’t
show it easily; and it will haunt you, too, for the entirety of your cognizant life; sometimes that is enough to make you want to fall into the well
you swear was in your childhood backyard (but probably wasn’t)
until the thick dark liquid fills your nostrils & your throat & limbs are suspended and your eyes grow quiet
and your mouth goes blind.
sometimes you have to sleep for thirteen hours, sometimes
you need to cry while you listen to songs about ghosts and sex
and sex with ghosts, sometimes you must turn yourself inside out
so that you can get a chance to numb yourself from the things that
are relentlessly puncturing you, because your skin is
not solid and maybe
your muscles and bones are.
and sometimes you have to just decide
that you are going to scream out the lyrics to “hips don’t lie”
you are going to strum “if you want to sing out, sing out”
you are going to play every bruce springsteen song you know, on repeat,
you are going to sing along to “i heard it through the grapevine” by marvin fucking gaye, and you are going to choose to be a person who is happy.
you are going to choose to see the people dancing in front of the sunset
in mariachi plaza, and how they are, and how the buildings on 1st street
perfectly frame one-tenth of downtown, and you are going to really
pay attention, and you are going to choose to love this.
you are going to love this, because you have to, because
there is no other option beyond this or
allowing death to eat you up from the fingertips on inward, and because
you have promised someone who is not yourself that you
are not going to die. you are butch cassidy and you are the sundance kid,
you are running out into the gunfire and you are laughing with wildness
deep inside your eyes, you are refusing
to fade back into the calm dissonance of sadness & you are
40 trillion cells that are pushing together because the universe has told them to fight with one old college try
against any kind of doom impending, cells that after centuries of waiting in volcanoes, rainfall, rose petals, other peoples lungs, and, yes—
have now finally coincided inside of you.
and i’ll never know if the baby i maybe bled out looked like her,
and i will never be someone who stands on bridges and does not think (just for two seconds) about jumping. and there will never
be another day like that one in the desert in the front row watching
our favorite band sing the songs about ghosts & sex & sex with ghosts. but there is the slight hum of an e harmonica just out of reach.
there is a distant highway.
there is a girl waving out a window.
“there is a light that never goes out” (which we will dance to, ruthlessly, until our feet crash through the dance hall floor.)
there is a reason to let go,
there is a piece that is inside of me that will glow,
and weep, and it is immortal,
and i will not lose it
i will not lose it
i will not lose it.
Megan Lent lives in Los Angeles where she collects succulents, prom dresses, and prayer candles.