The Aftermath

By Annette Benedetti

(My first Sestina. Originally written in 2001. Completed September 2014)

I am face down with the palms of my hands
pressed to the ground in some sort of prayer position. My lips, dry
and cracked, shape words still caught in the back
of my throat.This town is growing old on me. The dark
sky dulls colors and stretches my patience thin.
This empty house with its brightly painted walls is all I have left.

I realize now that a long time ago I should have left
your memory buried. The way your hands
pressed against me, lips drawn thin
and twisted with anger. Your love was dry
and rough to the touch, every moment with you dark
and isolated. In the back

of my mind I know memories are harmless, still I reach back
and back again searching for any trace of hope you left
behind. A shred of proof that there is a way out of darkness
and into life and light, bright like day. I spend hours with my hands
to my head pushing these thoughts to the surface and drying
out your sweat soaked image. The one where you grow thin

and weak, shivering beneath white bed sheets next to me. Thinning
out. I believe that you weren’t really sick back
then. Just rotting from the inside out, then drying
up and crumbling like fall leaves left
under foot. I like to think that if I were you I would have used both hands
to push through the darkness

that had surrounded you, the same darkness
that is beginning to surround me. I watch thin
strands of light flicker from candles I have lit, match still in hand,
trying to chase these thoughts and your image to the back
bedroom where nobody sleeps since you left.
And now your pillows and blankets have dried

in your absence, like my breath has become dry
and hot. And even though it is night and cold, the darkness
seems a little further away. And even though all that’s left
is this empty house, it’s beautiful walls, and my thinning
patience — I am relieved that you’re not coming back.
And I am thankful that these hands

pressed firmly against the ground — have strong, thin
fingers that can slip through the darkness, grab hold of hope, and pull me back
up to the surface. The only place left untouched by your hands.

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