The whole family is staying at Grandpa’s house.
A holiday visit has been extended
by either a blizzard or a hurricane.
Aunt Melissa warns me not to go outside,
but I assure her I’ll stay warm—I’m only
going outside to get to the spare bathroom.
When I enter the laundry room,
I hear my dead grandmother’s voice.
My cousin Molly is sitting in the corner.
“She’s over there,” Molly says.
“Where?” I ask.
“In your head,” Molly says.
Then I see her. She’s unzipping a bear costume.
She follows me into the bathroom, where we talk.
She’s chubbier than she was when she died.
My mom comes in the bathroom to check on me.
“Grandmother is actually here,” I say,
but I know she’s only in my head.
Today, my freshmen write for 15 minutes
about something they don’t want to think about:
Algebra homework. Hot Cheetos. The vacuum of outer space.
A break-up. Tralla Mosley, drained of her light,
her body crumpled on the concrete floor. Dying,
or killing (without honor)
behind rows of unused lockers.
Her ex-boyfriend, Marcus, his face
twisting as he stabs her.
Her Lifetouch portrait, centered
above a Statesman article,
her ponytail draping down her cheek.
The plastic owl that guards her memorial,
inconspicuously placed under a tree,
one building over from the hallway where she died.
My students, twelve years later,
filing past her headstone on the way out the door,
not stopping, not reading her name.
Chloe Kirkpatrick is a poet. She lives in Austin, TX, with her partner and their betta, Diego.