high fives and bloodlines

Mommy had these buoyant lips of
pallid pink, thin but full of life–
just like me, she’d always say.

Somehow, the bones that showed of her
teeth were even darker than the off-white silk
that stretched across her frame. We shared
the same haircut, her and I, a faded sea
of midday sunlight blond. She said
I always had to make sure I was safe
out on the playground, or in games,
and when she did, my Dad would look on
gently, with a sadness in his eyes
that never went away.

He always said he loved us,
and I believed him-I still do-
but I wished that I could save
those eyes from the sunken black
bags beneath that threatened
to swallow them, deep into abyss.

When I’d ask Mommy why, she’d say
I had to find a grown-up
if I ever cut myself; she made me promise
not to touch anyone
if there was ever blood.
Just to be safe, she’d say.
She’d never really tell me why, but

she’d remind me that she loved me.

On the day she died, Lily was chasing me
through the schoolyard, trying desperately
to tag me and to pass her title on.
I quickly spun my head to gauge
the gap that shrank between us,
but I guess it wasn’t quick enough.

I tripped on the curb and toppled
towards the sidewalk pavement
inches above my feet; my teeth clenched
tightly, anticipating impact. Time slowed down

-if only for a moment-

as my face approached the ground,
my chin and my knee scraped and gashed
in the vicious pursuit of the game. Lily cleared
the playground with her siren scream, even
before the first drop of blood turned
to crimson from blue.

And the nurse ran outside
just in time to see the sanguine flood
spill across the asphalt, like molten lava
tearing through a small and unsuspecting town.
In a panic, she snapped on rubber gloves
and I watched the powder dissipate.

I heard her yell to someone else to telephone my Dad;
I thought I was in trouble, and in a way, I guess I was.
When he finally arrived, Dad’s eyes were sunken
deeper than before, glazed and glowing red,
and he exhaled with a stutter when he told me, “Mommy’s dead.”

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