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Amanda Leal

Beetles in Purgatory

I wait for my boyfriend outside the bathroom,

as he dresses for the funeral, looming in the hallway

of his parents townhouse, his brother’s dark room open

like the lips of a corpse, the ceiling fan stilled,

clothes stacked on the bed, shapes in the shadows

like a tree line, and I remember two years ago,

when we began dating. At the drive in theater,

we gravitated towards one another, between our friends,

beer bottles glittering at our feet in the dim parking lot,

a crown of white oaks behind the projector erected

to the sky, the way we floated like fish

until our hands grazed between our hips, electricity

on our fingertips, the potential amplifying

before the illuminated screen that we watched

as though it could predict our lives, our figures

backlit in the field of cars.

Finally, he opens the bathroom door, encased

like a beetle in an olive suit, his red beard

over the collar. I always imagined how he would stand

in a suit, but this is not our wedding, and I absorb

his apprehension rising like humidity, the heat under layers

of polyester, his thick fingers straightening the cuffs

of his sleeves, tracing the buttons, fidgeting

over the fabric that he could crawl out of like skin,

his green eyes lifting to me, away from his brother’s

bedroom door, open like a vacuum that could swallow us,

the piles of clothing like the shape of his body

in the bed. His hand finding my own, we descend

the hardwood stairs like a bride to their groom,

the way life marries death, over and over,

his shoulders rising with the giant breaths

he heaves to keep from sobbing, like a woman

in labor. He holds me to his body at the bottom

of the stairs, his shoulders over my body like bow,

bent to the weight of his breaths, the work

of living and dying.


Amanda Leal is a 28-year-old poet from Lake Worth, FL. Her work has been featured or is forthcoming in magazines such as White Wall Review, Sky Island Journal, Levee Magazine, West Trade Review, and others.


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