by Joseph Helminski

Sitting in your room, the sparse one in the house,
on your bed with the headboard still cushioned
against your fits of pain, anger, or whatever they were,
I notice the buckled floor once soaked daily in urine,
the floor that mother cleaned with sheets
from the piles of newspapers she never threw away
because cleaning after you made them useful.
The green chalkboard hangs tilted on the wall
with the scrawl of your name in the middle
blocked out in our father’s hand when he cupped it
over yours to give the illusion that you were
of this world and that you knew so.
I stand up when the mattress sinks beneath my weight
and the smell of fear that was your body rises.