i. April, 2005
The week before, his hands in the seat of my jeans.
The lake before us is low. The exposed shore reaches
under the beached docks, spread open to coming rain.
He said he’d wait for me here.
Hours after I leave him, he calls.
His voice nods slow through affections.
I never shot the shit. Never saw it,
either. I refused to see he still did.
After five days, the phone rings.
His mother found him, a needle in his arm, seven a.m.
He ran into the woods outside his house, screaming
that he wanted to die. He wants to die.
A Friday night, dark at 4 p.m. I close my window.
Spring ends with him in prison. The air thickens
as the lake is slowly filled. The first waves
splash against the docks, finally afloat.
ii. May, 2007
We sit on the porch of her farmhouse
at her stepdaughter’s college graduation party.
We watch the two dogs roll under stars
on the field of her front yard.
She pours two shots of silver
tequila like a blessing. Salut.
She toasts the lumps in her breasts
as we soothe agave fire with champagne.
I’ve come to this farmhouse since before
my breasts. She sobs as I light
a cigarette, insisting on silence
until a date for surgery is set.
Through the kitchen’s window,
her stepdaughter’s laughter. We hear
the cork shoot from the last bottle
of champagne, a glass shatter on the floor.
iii. August 2005 – November 2007
Six months after she died in the Iraqi desert,
he and I meet. We start against hallway walls.
We build between train stations,
all-night trips up and down the coast.
He leaves Lajeune, moves north. One night,
wrapped in the same blanket, he shows me pictures.
We come to her, naked, the vital parts censored
by an inner tube. Her wet hair. Her laughing face.
I end it shortly after. I watch him
do coke for the first time, watch walls.
I watch the walls, too, to find what he sees.
More blow, booze. Weed to balance.
We still go to bed together. He usually
falls asleep just as dawn seeps through
the window by the ceiling. His length warm
at my side, her memory curled at our feet.
iv. May, 2008
I received the summons, but the addressee’s name was incorrect.
I sent it back. I haven’t checked the mailbox since.
In the morning, they call because I have to be retested,
the initial test positive. I find a ride from a friend, leave
my brother a message. Outside my house, I tug
on my hair, scalp from skull, to know if I feel it.
I get in the car, can’t answer questions requiring
explanation. I twice light the filter of the cigarettes
I quit. Fiberglass sparks, singes in a crackling burn.
I get the third to light, swallow smoke.
In a tiny room, they ask me about drugs about fucking
about where a white suburban girl could pick up HIV.
They say I’m not in the risk group. With my blood,
they close the door. I stare at a Parenting magazine.
When they come back, they don’t shut the door. Negative.
I check they tested the right sample. The doctor nods, slowly.
In the parking lot, my brother waits, weeps into my hair.
A stoplight turns on Main Street, horns blare. No one moves.
Stefanie Botelho is a recent graduate of Western Connecticut’s MFA in Professional and Creative Writing program. She has been published with The New Verse News and has writing in the upcoming Sentence: A Journal of Prose Poetry.”