January — Rachel Noelle Witt


by Rachel Noelle Witt

This is how
we braced ourselves against the winter:
You cried, I smoked
more cigarettes,
flicked the cherries into puddles,
listened to the hiss.
It changed nothing
but it filled the hours.

My hands were not strong enough.
You slipped and the weather
made you blind.
I could barely reach you
sleeping at the bottom
of your dried-up well.
I leaned in close,
as if you were a whisper,
but you never said anything in January.

When you were away
every mascara-stained pillowcase
made my eyes ache.

Sometimes you laughed so recklessly
it made me afraid
that madness had a hand around your throat.
Other times I begged you just to move.
I craved your smile while you slept on and on.
But it was January, then,
and you never said a word.

Well, I promise summer
is waiting for you
to slither from your bed.
New breath can fill you
until you recognize the sun.
You may slowly learn
to touch the world again,
with hands like a nervous insect,
flitting here and there,
too afraid to land.
I know winter seems infinite,
but the cold can’t keep you.

Of course, I did not have the strength
or proof to convince you—
you never said anything in January,
and I could only wonder how many days
it takes a person to grow back their voice.
If you count it in months,
a lifetime is not so long.




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