Lana Del Rey Concert,
Hold a 24 oz. beer can to your ear,
and that’s the nearest ocean. Hold back
your excitement, toss your hair over one shoulder,
and that’s foreplay. You wanted to get all dressed up,
so you did—red lipstick, cat eyes, black tights.
I try to match my breathing to Lana’s swaying hips,
to the red and white collar creeping up her candy throat.
I want to feel the sun go down in my hamstrings first.
My body a pulley, a sunset, a stone.
There are so many great white moons in this night.
I can see down your shirt a little, even after dark.
“It’s odd / how each loss feels fresh / when so much is repeated.”
—KMA Sullivan, “Viridian”
We buried your dad on a Friday. No, a Saturday. I’m not sure. No, not buried. Cremated. But they brought his body to the church. During the service I sat in the front row between you and your brother-in-law. Because I was your family then. Can you tell where this is going? Afterwards, the boys carried the casket down the aisle and out the back door. We followed right behind them, couldn’t get close enough. I held your hand for the second or third-to-last time. It was our last moment with his body, which was hidden, closed up, packaged away. His skinny legs. His perpetual sunburn. His pastel tank top. No, he wore a suit to the funeral. The same one he wore to the visitation the night before. The same one all the men were wearing. The boys hoisted him into the back of a big car. Another thing to be delivered.
Now, just ashes for the river he’d want them in. Now, at 24, both of your parents dead. I pretended to cough to cover my sobs. It was winter, so everyone was coughing. It was Christmas Eve. No, that was the day he died. It was a few days later. Your sister’s voicemails on our phones that morning were just minutes of crying and I had to wake you. You were tired. You were hungover. You need to call your sister.
The night before we were at a wedding. We posed together in front of a Christmas tree done up in gold. Your dress was all black, lace. I wore a black tie. We kissed under mistletoe. We had started fixing our problems. I had started writing lines from our favorite poems on napkins and slipping them into your lunch bag, and you had stopped telling me that I didn’t care. It was going to work out. It was. We were going to have pancakes and morning sex. We were going to exchange just one gift.
Instead we rushed to Dayton. We smoked pot in your sister’s garage, picked at our grilled cheese sandwiches. The first time I met your dad, which was the first time you brought a girl home, he said to me, you wanna go out in the garage and smoke pot or somethin’?
We watched your little nieces open presents the next morning. Merry Christmas! they screeched. They wanted to know where Grandpa Fred was. Days later we went to Kohl’s together, returned his pajamas, his dress shirts. We opened the gifts from your dad that his girlfriend brought over. I kept the PacSun gift card in my wallet for a whole year, then bought a pair of mint colored pants you would’ve liked.
What I remember for weeks, months, years, is the visitation. His high school picture on display. I saw you in there. His eyes so blue, they were almost clear. Your eyes that same blue, made my chest tight in math class years ago, that I grew used to. Tonight and every Christmas Eve I re-watch the In Remembrance slideshow your sister posted to YouTube. I owe you these tears, at least.
So many pictures. Your sister as a baby on his lap in the corvette. You and Fred in front of your Mazda. You are 16 and beautiful. Fred in the garage. Fred the mechanic. Fred put a new bumper on my car after someone wrecked into us one rainy Saturday morning when you were driving me to work. I run my fingers across that bumper after every wash and it’s smooth like a stone, like your hands.
Fred and your mom. I never got to meet her. Fred and your mom holding baby you. Baby Fred. Eighth-grade Fred. Your nose just like Fred’s, that same little bulb. Your lips curl at the left corner when you first begin to smile, too. Your arms around his neck in the front yard before the prom. Your boyfriend, Andrew. What boy will take care of you when I leave you weeks later?
Fred fishing. Fred winning a prize, holding up his thirty-pound catfish in the seventies. Fred taught you to fish. You taught me to fish the day after we first slept together. The first time I slept with you was in Fred’s bed. It was your 22nd birthday. An entire wall of his bedroom was rifles behind glass cases and I listened to their silence all night. He stayed at his girlfriend’s that weekend, said no boys in my house.
Fred toasting to his buddies at a cookout, big fat burgers on a little round charcoal grill. Fred drinking. After the funeral, everyone from church drank whiskey shots at Tony’s. Fred drinking. You wouldn’t do it because you hate whiskey. I drank for both of us.
Fred on a motorcycle, shock of white hair in the wind. Fred’s hair that white for years. Fred young and handsome. Front yard, bellbottoms, no shirt. Fred flexing behind a ping-pong table. He could have any girl he wanted. Fred kissing your cheek in his kitchen. Me kissing your cheek in our kitchen. You and Fred on the couch in his living room. Me and you on the couch in our living room. You could have any girl you wanted.
Lisa Summe was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio and is a recent graduate of Virginia Tech’s MFA program. She works as Associate Editor of Toad, Senior Editorial Assistant of The Cincinnati Review, and is also a WebTeam intern for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts. Her poems have appeared in The Tampa Review, Smartish Pace, Lambda Literary, Salt Hill, Tinderbox Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA. lisasumme.wordpress.com