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Lorrie Ness

Both Sides of Grief

Belly breath,

a twin to every inhale I ever took

in yoga — hands folded above my solar plexus,

my back an archway above the floor.

Next, a slow exhale through this entire stretch

of asphalt. I speed across a bridge,

my knuckles knobbing along the wheel

as I drive home the final time

to empty your house. I remember you

that first day dead, how I cleaned

pink froth from the carpet where gravity pressed

your breath into the ground — where I found

your finger still curled around the steel trigger. Warning

signs blur as I toe the accelerator.

Caution Passing Zone. Do Not Enter.

I merge the car to the left,

& take the bypass as I did a month ago.

Today, it’s the same highway ferrying me

to your house, then the funeral. I focus on dodging

traffic cones, taking my first breaths

without a tether — mom. You were not

a coward like people claimed. You left me

proud of your resolve — choosing

bullets over pills,

splatter over sleep.

Where you once held

the muzzle snug against your solar plexus,

a mortician has laced your fingertips

like fabric to clot the wound underneath. I too

am bullet torn. I should be gasping. I should be

sobbing, shuddering & charading my grief.

Instead, I purse my lips,

smooth my hair, & blow out slowly

in the side view mirror.

After ten miles with the windows rolled down

my cheeks are red, my eyes bloodshot

but I have not yet cried. In the chapel

I twist at a tissue,

pray that even God won’t know the difference

between the blush of tears & the scarlet

of burning wind.


The wrap of skin without holes

is claustrophobic.

It keeps me poking

my way toward a glowing red

exit. Lips parting

in the night air. Leaned against

the brick wall behind the club,

She’s another one

I stagger past. Her smooth stomach


below her halter.

My fingers would play her

like a record without any scratches.

No crackle,

no pops, just a shallow groove

& I’m listening

for a warmth that comes

from depth.

I’m not saying I live life looking

for a wound,

but I appreciate a good scar —

filled, but not quite

level. You are

a ghost guiding my palm across

a percussion of seams

where things have joined together

again. I ask you

what you saw inside your flesh.

You tell me loquats. You tell me

locust wings.

What Comes to Light

moonsight | after twenty minutes

steeping at the edge of the wood | eyes learn to massage

shape from shadow

at night | color is reduced

to the flash of fireflies & memory | i test my recollection

open the album on my lap

polaroids | of second grade

silhouettes | scrubbed clean by the starlight

i remember my dress

hunter green velvet | the bodice

a second skin | cotton leggings & patent leather barricade

christmas cold

stage lights | the glare

from the first row | mom in her beige suit & dad

perennial blue

children’s choir | harmonizes

oh holy night | silence upon waking the morning after

to flakes

of dried blood | mom stripping

my sheets & pillowcase in her slippers | says it’s nothing

she can’t wash away

the truth lies | in the flashlight’s beam