Oftentimes I wake with Don’t Forget
written on the back of my hand in black ink.
I never remember what—
Maybe the dead headlight,
or car oil rotting in its pipe.
Perhaps, a reminder
to turn off the radio, move my poetry drafts
off the back deck before it rains.
It could be don’t forget
to crawl into bed before midnight
but only after brushing my teeth
yellowed from coffee and wine;
to wash at least one of the glasses
stacked on my armoire.
Maybe, don’t forget
to scrape the crumbs from the stove
or the ice from my windshield
before driving this time.
Perhaps, don’t forget
to mix protein powder on my dinner
because every time I try to eat
I think of the dead fawn on the street corner,
motherless and alone. Its ribs
beginning to show like my own.
And I cannot forget:
I haven’t answered my Mother’s calls in weeks,
or have yet to find the courage to ask my Dad
why he prefers the lullaby of infomercials
on the living room couch instead of his own bedroom.
Maybe it’s don’t forget
to untangle my tongue, to respond
to one of my sister’s letters, to write
a poem about sunrises or summertime, for once,
or finally find the words to tell the story
of the night that boy mistook me for a mannequin
and picked the clothes off my body like rose petals
until all that was left of me was thorn.
To also find the words
to explain to my roommates
why each time they walk out the front door
every goodbye, every see you later
is replaced with a desperate I love you—
The same words I once forgot,
and instead, whispered to soil freshly raked over a coffin.
Why every phone call I cannot answer
I don’t hear ringing but instead
the hesitant voice of a police officer,
tires whipping across black ice on highways,
a siren, a shot gun, a last breath.
But most likely
it was late night slurred ink
across the skin of my hand: Don’t Forget—
Image: Photo by Julie Marsh, via Unsplash