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My cousin asked the usual questions—
boys and marriage; were there any more toys
under the Christmas tree?
I asked When? And How?
I was thirteen. My cousin, twelve.
It said I would be 41.
The same age my mother was that Christmas.
Elvis was 42 when he died. Jesus, 33.
After that I waited, counting down the days
and weeks. The years.
Whenever we played war
I was always the soldier who got killed, the one who died
a heroic death. Sometimes
I lay on the couch with a towel over my face
and instructed my cousin to pretend it was my funeral.
It would be on a Tuesday.
Would it hurt? Would there be blood?
The night before that fated day I dream
I’m standing before the Oracle at Delphi;
that my cousin and I are trapped on a frozen lake.
When the ice begins to crack, my cousin slides away .
from me, trying to collect the walnuts that spill out
of the bag she is carrying.
“Don’t be obstinate!” she calls to the nuts
that lie there playing dead, looking like turds.
In the morning I watch the sun pass through the clouds.
After my third cup of coffee I pour another
and move to a chair near the window.
Outside a boy is standing in the street jumping up and down
on each crack in the pavement, fearless.
From A Blister of Stars. Copyright 2016 Jason Irwin. Published by Low Ghost Press.