Emily Pickering

When All the Lights Had Dimmed

I could still see you, life under siege, sudden silence 
	in a warzone. After the death 
sentence, the one where the judge wore rubber gloves,
	red lines on a chart as your jury, 
you packed up half your belongings and headed out 
	into winter's maw, your eyes 
a boarded-up house with dark windows, us wondering
	what you would do with a hardy
kitchen knife and three paint brushes. You wandered
	around, hands waving, 
and we followed steadily, tugboating a barge down 
	a murky river. You ran to throw 
rocks over the hoods of cars. After you gouged 
	a bumper, already half-severed 
and rusted up, you smoked your way across 2nd and Oak
	Street, bootprints sinking 
into the snow, staccato tracks. Lingering, the space
	abandoned by your body. After
your grip weakened, I held old receipts and grocery lists
	up to the light, watching 
as the silhouette of your signature shined, cast shadows.
	I started bargaining, 
sleeping less to give you more, answering every phone,
	the stilts of our silence 
tentative, buckling under the weight of the waves.
	There was no decent clock.
None of us knew how to be after your body was set adrift,
	a raft unmoored in a graying sea, 
a pilot propelled from his cockpit. After I settled like dust
	inside all the caverns you left behind.

Emily Pickering attends Interlochen Arts Academy; Pickering tied for third place in the Charles Crupi Memorial Poetry Contest for Michigan High School students. For more information on the contest, please visit the Albion College English Department website.

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