Stick-men crayoned on the closet walls

like astronauts abandoned

to the endless night of space,

ancient grease thick as suntan lotion

on the kitchen ceiling, a cloud of nail holes

floating the front-room wall,

slats of the fractured louver doors

scattered like bones on the bedroom floor.

It took a week to gather the detritus

of giving up, walking away.

So much left behind, hangers strewn in a jigsaw,

shirts and underwear piled in the corners.

the legless blue-foam seat

their child sat on all of every day

and died last month at seventeen.

She couldn’t move or speak,

only shift her eyes enough

that you believed someone lived in there.

They learned what her eye-flickers meant,

the gurgled cries, head wags.

Fed spoon-by-spoon so she wouldn’t choke,

I saw how they’d slide her in the blue seat

across the living-room, stationed by the television

so they could go on with their lives.

They’d check back in ten minutes,

read her eyes the way you try to do

when someone doesn’t answer.

You look as they stare out the window

at the pink streaks of morning,

see how still they are, wanting to believe

they’re loving the overwhelming

beauty of the sunrise until you notice

their eyes have stopped moving.


by Mark Burke

Mark Burke’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in the North American Review, Beloit Poetry Journal, Sugar House Review, Nimrod International Journal and others. His work has recently been nominated for a Pushcart prize.

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