“I Knew It Was Over” by Daphne Gottlieb

I KNEW IT WAS OVER

when tonight you couldn’t make the phone ring
when you used to make the sun rise
when trees used to throw themselves
in front of you
to be paper for love letters
that was how i knew i had to do it

swaddle the kids we never had
against january’s cold slice
bundle them in winter
clothes they never needed
so i could drop them off at my mom’s
even though she lives on the other side of the country
and at this late west coast hour is
assuredly east coast sleeping
peacefully

her house was lit like a candle
the way homes should be
warm and golden
and home
and the kids ran in
and jumped at the bichon frise
named lucky
that she never had
they hugged the dog
it wriggled
and the kids were happy
yours and mine
the ones we never had
and my mom was

grand maternal, which is to say, with style
that only comes when you’ve seen
enough to know grace

like when to pretend it’s christmas or
a birthday so
she lit her voice with tiny
lights and pretended
she didn’t see me crying

as i drove away
to the hotel connected to the bar
where i ordered the cheapest whisky they had

just because it shares your first name
because they don’t make a whisky
called baby
and i only thought what i got
was what
i ordered

i toasted the hangover
inevitable as sun
that used to rise
in your name

i toasted the carnivals
we never went to
and the things you never won
for me
the ferris wheels we never
kissed on and all the dreams
between us
that sat there
like balloons on a carney’s board
waiting to explode with passion
but slowly deflated
hung slave
under the pin-
prick of a tack

hung
heads down
like lovers
when it doesn’t
work, like me
at last call
after too many cheap

too many sweet
too much
whisky makes me
sick, like the smell of cheap,

like the smell of
the dead

like the cheap, dead flowers
you never sent
that i never threw
out of the window
of a car
i never
really
owned
Daphne Gottlieb, from Final Girl