the cloud of your ash
that was meant to be thrown into the ocean,
swirling in heavy air.
I exhale and your lungs collapse into blankets around me.
The television flickers through channels,
all playing a version of you.
Under the crumbling truth,
a nation tries to trust its leader.
I hold that truth under my tongue-
too scared to swallow.
I count every birthday
with you present, I
only need one hand.
We pretend that our sons will come home for dinner.
strangers fill dining room tables, asking us,
“What is it like to feel loss?”
on the backs of my ears.
Eyes swell with the heat of embers.
I do not know every answer.
We forget how to get out of bed in the morning.
on a street named after you,
fire-truck sirens and
sing you to sleep. As if
the ruble is soft enough
for you to lay your head on.
Alexandra Marino, Age 16, Grade 11, Columbia Grammar-Prep School, Gold Key