After by Kara Cochran

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One day you breathe
my daughter.
The next, I hold
your ungripping hand
the priest speaks slow
the number falls to zero
then rises, then falls.
We leave the room
Dad signs papers
I stare at the hospital floor
until tile lines split to two.

The world floods me
mad swarm that fills the space.
Petrified to walk, breathe,
I make small moves–
pour our drink
listen to your Happy Birthday
voicemails on the bathroom floor
then again, and again,
whisper to you as I fold laundry
you left in the dryer.
I open drawers and cabinets once private
stand in your closet
as Dad chokes what do you think
holding two black dresses,
his hands quake
polishing your rings above the sink drain.
The funeral home, caskets,
choices that feel heavy
but don’t make a difference.
In the church, I read words aloud
I hadn’t dared think before.

Once alone
the rings in a small velvet bag,
I get drunk and slip
them on my fingers
watch them wink the light
run the metal through my fingers
like a wish
come back, come back, please come back.

Kara Cochran

Kara Cochran is a writer, editor, instructor, and Philadelphian. She holds an MFA from Rosemont College and a BA from Denison University. She teaches English at Temple University, Widener University, and Delaware County Community College. Kara also volunteers with Mighty Writers and Philadelphia Stories Junior and is former Managing Editor of Rathalla Review. Her poems and essays can be found in Schuylkill Valley Journal, Fiction Southeast, City Key literary magazine, and, and she has poems forthcoming in The Bookends Review. She tweets from @philawriter.