“one of our own,” he said over and over

Because I love her

hands clasped, compressions on his chest

counting to thirty under my breath

as my partner cut through the fabric of his buttoned shirt

 

thirteen year old told me last week

“I want to die every single day!”

and I thought immediately,

I want to die every other day

life is a competition, right?

looked at her grimace but couldn’t tell her

“It gets better.”

at least I’m not in last place

 

Because I love her

around his mouth, fingers sealing the pocket mask

commanding, demanding firefighters to find

the airway adjuncts for a cardiac arrest

 

she slid from the mirror, a sort of reflection

bruised flesh and crimson lips

gripped cold hands around my throat

by the ankles, hung me upside down

over the bathtub, faucet on high

“Love,” she pressed wet lips to my ear,

“you’ll feel everything.”

and the water level rose above my nose

this is drowning on the inside

 

Because I love her

didn’t hesitate to slide the #4 sized King

down his throat, no pulse

her mother screamed for mercy from the couch beside me

 

drink 30oz of coffee at midnight

these ghosts dig their claws through bone

and I just want to be alone

but he holds me close

breath blistering my flesh

I stare at his ceiling and pretend

I’m alright; I won’t cry this time

lips tracing my neck, I feel nothing inside

I’m alright; I won’t break down this time

eyes closed and I’m remembering again

 

Because I love her

paramedic calls time of death

setting my equipment aside, taking a breath

adjusting the glasses on his face, knowing he isn’t alive

 

restless, I visit July twenty-seven often

how we plunged lawn chairs in lake water

sitting, laughing, lounging peacefully all afternoon

that was the last time I saw me

after, I wore those sunburns

like badges of honor until skin peeled and fell and

we fractured into you and me, living separately

even so, the memory of July twenty-seven is safety

 

Because I love her

headlights in the driveway at night

holding her longer than the others

constricted throat, didn’t know what to say

 

he can fill me from toes to ears

but no love can erase

the place behind my eyes,

squeezing her warm body tight and wondering

if she’s okay, maybe I can be too?

no, my love, it’s not sadness

this thing coiling around my throat

spreading roots throughout my bodily tissue

like persistent weeds, this parasitic thing

a product of practicing emergency medicine

no, my love, it’s called defeat

 

Because I love her

driving to work the next day

catching myself wondering through agony

if she’s okay, maybe I can be too?

 

I haven’t spoken a word in months

saturated with syllables from other mouths

tension between friends, enemies, memories

suffocating the ability to be me

confess in ink what no one will ever read

so I’ll do paperwork to stay occupied

and I won’t think about those who’ve died

and I won’t drink bottles of wine each night

and I won’t sit in parking lots to cry

 

Because I love her

my shattered, splintered spirit

doesn’t matter

I did what I could to save her stepfather

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