“She is a phantom of who she once was
an empty shell of her former self.”
not to me
not to anyone
just quiet and gentle.
He doesn’t laugh like he used to.
No more raspberries blown on cheeks.
Eleven pills a day instead;
one every waking hour.
when are they awake or asleep?
They live in that beautiful place
in the in-between
where nightmares are so close to reality
living where there is no difference between
running or sleepwalking.
He is stubborn stubborn
a knot in hair that can’t be eased
a tooth that won’t make room for newcomers.
He knows she will get through this
all he sees is saran-wrapped skin
over translucent wrinkles.
He won’t hug me for as long as I leave.
Won’t let me get too close.
Trapped where he is
in the shedded skin of his useless dreams.
lost on the southbound six train
only beneath dark tunnels
while we are being held momentarily by the train’s dispatcher
the woman with her hazardous red nails
turns another page
of a teenage romance novel
she reads because
no one ever loved her in high school
but she envisions
her life within these pages
when she inspects the undersides of her eyelids
he sits across from her
he struggles to speak
she is far too beautiful and self-assured and just so lovely
he buries himself
between the pages of his own book
evaluating his self worth
she gets off at union square
he departs to city hall
a lost connection
between two people who needed it most.
superman lost his way
one night you left him and I
just for a moment
that turned into much much longer
he and I walked side by stride
on the dark sidewalk
the white white streetlamps
illuminated your missing presence
where did you go? he wants to know.
what is it that you are up to?
but I won’t tell him
I will protect both of you
at least that is what I thought.
I do not know if you know
what real despair and disappointment looks like.
it is the expression on the smallest face
when the police refuse to stop calling our house
when lights flash through our windows
red blue red blue red blue.
it is blank
oh so empty
you had been his hero.
Niki Sanders, Age 18, Grade 12, Hunter College High School, Silver Key