When you lose someone,
whether by accident or on purpose,
you start measuring time by its proximity to the loss.
You see familiarity in the faces of strangers.
You see the creases around your mother’s eyes.
Molly’s wide smile.
The curve of your sister’s nose.
Reflections in windows begin their taunting.
They mouth the names of all the people
you will probably never see again
except as a fleeting shadow
across a busy city street
or a memory that flashes in front of your eyes
in the seconds before you start crying.
When you lose everyone at once,
your body is the first to react.
The twisting of the stomach.
The nightmares while at work
or while driving.
The wrecking heart
pounding against your last hope
until that begins to shudder.
Then you start imagining yourself
wrapped in the arms of other people’s happiness.
You take their laughter as your own
and do anything to forget
the sting of the abandonment.
I’ve been told that I cannot eat poems.
That poems will not cure me of my sadness.
That here’s a list of doctors.
Take some meds.
This one’s a natural cure.
You don’t have to be so miserable.
The last doctor I saw told me I was crazy.
I spent the next eight months proving him right
because I have never met a doctor
who could un-invent loneliness.
Never found a pill that will close down the miles
that will force me
to spend Christmas morning
alone this year.
But I have read poems
that resembled my outstretched hands,
pale and trembling but so full of power.
I’ve heard poets speak words of mercy
that remind me that I’m not as alone as I feel tonight.
Doctor, can I wash this one down with some
water under the bridge?
If I take two before bed
will I wake up used to this?
Will it bring my girl back?
Or will it just make me forget?
I haven’t gotten any answers.
This pill is still sitting on my tongue.
I think for now I’ll stick with these poems.
They may not be for eating,
but they do fill me up.