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Poem- The Last Day

by Crystal Torres on November 18, 2016

Tomorrow, I’ll clear the marigolds from the mantle
and take down your poetry
and know that I have grieved
but I have not died
Today is the last day
that I will ask what-if
hold my half of conversations that cannot be answered
allow myself to live in the past
Today is the last day
that your poetry will be my wallpaper
that I will ask your ghost for approval
or wonder what you would say
Today is the last day
I carry your casket around my heart
lay my pillow like a headstone
wrap myself up in the chill of your absence
Today is the last day
that I can remember
you were alive
a year ago today
My editor and very dear friend died a year ago today. I think the first year of grief is the hardest. There’s this constant incongruent meeting of the new normal and the old, all of the things that come up that would under any other circumstances be shared with the deceased. From here on out, I’ve gotten through those things without him at least once.

This month I haven’t been remembering normal. I’ve been remembering that a year ago he was in the hospital, that he was dying and that it was very important for me to pretend like he wasn’t. If I gave up I felt like that would give him permission to give up. I refused to give him my permission to give up. Not that he ever gave a damn what I wanted in such matters.

A year ago yesterday, I posted this to my personal Facebook-

“Tonight I want to write horrible things. I want to mix my metaphors and speak in trite cliches. I’ll use too many words, leave all the fillers in, repeat myself redundantly and and be careless with my typos. I want to use that word that technically means the right thing, except the connotations are all wrong. I want to put sentences together that will grate like nails on a chalkboard to anyone who has ever cared for the English language.

I want to annoy my editor into being well. There is still so much he has to teach me about writing beautifully. My poetry is always so much better after he has run his hands over my lines. He cannot make my passionate rambling resemble his concise eloquence, but he extracts from my first drafts the very best of me. I want him to hack my words down to what they’re meant to be.

I want him to tease me again, jab at my soft spots, call me names. He has a way of making me want to hit him upside the head and say thank you, all at once. Somewhere in the taunts is the gift of feeling really seen. I don’t feel like friendly teasing tonight. I want to scream myself hoarse, but I won’t. I’ll keep my composure. I’ll keep my distance. I’ll keep it all inside. I’m hoarding all my tears, even if the weight is enough to make the floorboards buckle.

There is nothing to cry about. So what if he’s in the hospital? So what if the only thing I’ve ever known about heart surgery is that my grandfather died post op? Those are just my fears, they have nothing to do with my editor. My fears forget where he’s been, where he’s from, he’s made of tougher stuff than this. He and I are good at surviving and collecting darkness along the way. From darkness humor springs. Our demons are freaking hilarious and that is why I choose him as my friend.

He gets it when I laugh at the things you are never supposed to laugh about. I can’t seem to laugh about anything lately, but I sure as hell refuse to cry. This is just a momentary setback. He’ll be all better and humbling me with red ink soon enough. When he is all better, I’ll tell him what for. Yeah, I know I got an extension on my deadline, but that’s no excuse for lying about in bed all day.

There is so much I still need from my editor, from my friend. There are more than enough years left to get all that from him and to maybe find some way to pay him back for everything. When he’s all better, I’ll tell him some of this stuff, how angry I am, how scared, how much his friendship means to me. I mean, I won’t get all mushy about it or anything. I’m just saying there will be a time for telling these things to him. Tonight is not that time, so I’m telling all of you instead. I’m sorry.”

Having that come up in my Facebook memories has made me face that I’ve spent a year living with death. I have shook my fist at death, and said angry things as if I could hurt it. I have surrendered quietly and let my grief rock me to sleep. I have written and written and written until I felt as empty as when I cried and cried and cried. I have refused to write as if my petulant silence could change anything. I have grieved every way I know how. It hasn’t changed anything.

He was an amazing man, an exasperating friend and he meant more to me than mere words can express. Still, it’s time to let go, to move on, to live fully again.

“No llores porque ya se terminó… sonríe, porque sucedió.” (translation: Don’t cry because it ended, smile because it happened.) — Gabriel García Márquez.


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