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‘After reading and not understanding a word’ and other poems by Kate LaDew

By: Kate LaDew

after reading and not understanding a word

I hand the poem back, nodding, yes, yes, exactly
and it seems enough
as it has always been enough for me
another human voice saying yes, yes, that’s it exactly


you talk to god

someone still explaining long after they’re understood
but it wasn’t my fault, no, really
and was it? hard to remember what happened to you
and what you made happen
whether you found yourself there, suddenly,
or walked with purpose, every step


because heartbeats are just a series of shocks

I squeeze my fingers against my palms and let go
spreading them like branches as you drop into the earth
shoeless and undrained in a box woven from banana leaves
cotton between your toes, the flat wooden plaque
burned with nothing but your name
as natural a burial as I could muster
I know my heart won’t stop without my making it,
and think, just for a moment, I might, and fall beside you
in that studied dramatic way old movie stars
fell into their leading man’s arms, a hand over the eyes
legs curled up, murmuring oh don’t leave me this way
I do none of this of course, never one for a show,
letting you try all the high-kicks, the motivating speeches
I may live another hundred years just on your memory alone,
eating raw and clean and bathing in rainwater and praying with my eyes open
because whatever’s there is everywhere
I may, but probably won’t, warming oatmeal from a packet,
spooning tuna from a can, keeping showers long and hot
but maybe, maybe I’ll allow myself just this one thing
when I raise an apple to my teeth, the vision of you,
the first day I saw you, eating a granny smith whole, core and all,
and I’ll crunch the seeds, treasuring that tiny spark of arsenic,
wondering if all the little parts of you I watched and loved
until they didn’t exist anymore are hidden somewhere inside everywhere


it’s amazing how easily I pretend

so that when I die it’ll be sudden, all of a
and everyone who knew me, well or not
will say to each other, did you– did she–
no, no, no, no not a word, not a one
and I’ll smile from wherever it is people go
never one to shock and finally,
just at the last, giving it a go
it’s always the quiet ones you know


I’m constantly asking people who don’t know either

whether it will all be alright,
hoping enough mingled voices might spark a miracle
what’s already happened going poof
up in smoke as if it never was
the remains drifting clear to god, whispering please

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