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Ellen Wright

The Other Side

The news these days, full of celebrity

suicides, puts me in mind of the view

from my long-ago ninth floor window

where a colony of water towers gathered

atop several blocks of apartment buildings

that sloped downhill toward 96th Street.

An agitated depression owned me then.

I couldn’t sleep. Couldn’t wake up.

Couldn’t move. Couldn’t sit still.

What I could do was smoke. The ectoplasmic

dawn would mingle with my tobacco fumes

and the occasional plume of blues

from an alto sax on nights when my

off-again-on-again boyfriend was off-again,

or when the tribe of friends’ paisley swirl

of psychedelic ecstasies had formed

and reformed without me. Then

the saxophonist became so lucid

and lonesome, the wafting mists would incline

the Tin Woodsman hats of the towers

toward me and invite me to their

fellowship that spanned the plane of roofs.

Like the child at her nursery school concert

who, seeing Mom in the audience, walks off

the front of the stage, I had no thoughts

of EMT’s sweeping any splat of my blood

and bones from the canyon of 99th Street.

Neither despair of unwashed dishes nor

gross-out of burgeoning ashtrays moved me.

If any anguished outpouring of internet

empathy had existed then to prompt me

with suicide prevention numbers, it would

have meant nothing. If I could have called,

I could have made the leap

of faith that would have united me

with my new friends on the other side.


Interior with Washer and Dryer

Maybe our own parents will eat us

eventually – they may have eaten us

already. . . .

– Richard Howard

Not the swirl of Provençal/bandana/blue-and-white-toile prints

sloshing among sheets and pillowcases in the peristaltic

action of the washer,

Not Baba Yaga’s kerchief. Not Hänsel’s Tyrolean suspenders

or Solveig’s apron,

Not the youthful hero (who, I always forget, is invariably a boy)