Poetry

Ash Wednesday

By: A.J. Ortega

It was my fault, and I knew this only when I was kicking through charred furniture, books, and two-by-fours.
I hoped that I’d find the red lunchbox, only half-melted, and, with my now useless house key, I’d pry a corner of it open.
I kept it on my nightstand since the day you bought it for me when we walked downtown and went into the thrift store.
“How about this?” A playful smile and those words.
Maybe those words and that smile, the corners of your mouth, those teeth – maybe they were in the box, somehow.
You gave me the lunchbox and I gave you a tin box, originally for tea bags, but now filled with nuts and bolts.
Metal doesn’t burn well.
Your eyes looked sad as we walked to the bus stop, your box rattled. Your thumbs clasped the top.
Mine was quiet.
Lying together is only a fleeting memory like waking up from a dream or forgetting what you are supposed to write down, a useless pen in hand, paper with no purpose.
We were tangled together with our boxes at the foot of the bed.
Your foot on metal, then metal on the floor, flecks of rust, and rolling hexagons on the Swedish maple.
I begged. “No, no it was me.” But you left me here with the hardware and rust and plastic.
I placed the hair you left behind in my red, plastic lunchbox.
And now my hands are black.

Categories: Poetry

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