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The Missing

I want to say I miss her, I miss her so deeply,
but I hardly knew her.
She knew my name. I knew her voice.
What I really miss is my life before, the innocence of not having known
someone who committed suicide, not having
worked with someone who decided to hang themselves.
I miss not knowing this.
And it’s one thing to know, to hear the news
(I was not present for the action)
and yet quite another thing to know
in the presence of others, to weep openly
in plain view with those you work next to, watch her casket in unison,
parade down the church aisle lined in flowers like a bride’s passage,
the glistening wood held fast by the strong male hands
of those who loved her, those who had loved her,
hands that knew her skin, the pulse that raced below,
knew the taste of her mouth and the way she closed
her eyes when she laughed.
We all watched, eyes open, to witness
their hands holding tight, lifting her to float
down the longest aisle; they would not let her fall this time.
Once was enough for all of them, for all of us
to endure. And it was not her falling, it was not their
failure to catch. Her leap was swift and sure and certain,
ordained within her longer than any could realize,
a truth buried deep within, longing to blossom, one ripe bud
unfurled in an ugly, sweet bloom,
the unholy act and the holy requirement of her soul united
to crush the breath from her body and free her spirit to wander,
away from this life, her life,
our life with her in it,
away from this fragment of time too sharp and cutting to hold onto,
the reflex natural to release, empty the grip and slide
beyond, surrendering her skin to the evermore slumber
we have yet to know.
That determined step forward through the glass,
careful and measured and thorough – no one could stop her,
no man could find her pace, could know where the staircase led
around the corner, that she would walk straight off
the cliff no one else could see.

He kept her eyeglasses, the boyfriend, the ex or current,
the lover…was he the last man she made love to? Was there another?
Who was the last
to kiss her, who was the last left wanting
before we all wanted, before we all attached
to that want, that lack of her,
and flooded the private desire
with the numbing communal need,
diluting the pain into a river we could all swim
without drowning, flailing and splashing at the waters
that carry us, regardless, down
the same current, into the same sea.

-- Cynthia Kulikov