Breathe

Breathe in:

the cloud of your ash

that was meant to be thrown into the ocean,

swirling in heavy air.

Breathe out:

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.

Breathe in:

I count every birthday

with you present, I

only need one hand.

We pretend that our sons will come home for dinner.

Breathe out:

strangers fill dining room tables, asking us,

“What is it like to feel loss?”

Questions linger

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.

Breathe in:

steaming pavement

on a street named after you,

after you.

Breathe out:

fire-truck sirens and

helicopter propellers

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

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