Talk to me about the crumbs you dropped along the way,
only to come back and find that a small bird had eaten them until her tummy swelled and burst.
Talk to me about that bus you never took. Who rode in your place?
Perhaps the usual folks: a single woman with a baby, dark hair pressed in sweaty ringlets against her forehead,
a young man in an oversized t-shirt, nodding off while he drafts a text to say he’s sorry, he’ll be late,
a monk with good manners,
a man who strokes his salt-and-pepper beard, who claims to be in a motorcycle gang,
who might’ve told you, people are just people,
whose stop would’ve arrived before you felt you’d asked him all you needed to ask.
Talk to me about the pills you never should’ve taken.
Talk to me about the heavy way they made you breathe, about falling out of bed
and biting your lip when you hit the floor.
Talk to me about the fat lip it gave you,
about the weeks it took to heal,
about the way you seemed to stutter when you smiled.
That stuttering smile, jerking and clanking like a train—
tell me, what did it achieve?
Is a smile incomplete if it does not receive a smile back?
Is a smile still a smile when it’s hidden behind a mask?
Talk to me about your mask and why you chose it.
Talk to me about the liability of your laughter,
about the jokes you made in poor taste,
about being told for years to loosen up, to lighten up, to let it go.
Talk to me about letting it go
and about the battering ram that’s been knocking ever after.
Talk to me about leaving and about having left: What did it achieve?
Do you still think about the room behind the door whose key you returned?
What have you done with the time you earned back?
Did the two faces of Gemini say goodbye in the same language?
What phase was the moon in your heart that day?
Elizabeth Burnam lives in the shadow of snow-capped mountains with two Viking cats named after her favorite cheeses. She’s a professional writer and a poet at heart. Read her work in publications like The Raven Chronicles Journal, the Coffin Bell Journal, The Inquisitive Eater, Introvert Dear, and more.