These two poems by Angel Rosen touch on separate, but related, brands of grief — the pains that come along with growing up, and the burden of being the one left alive…
The Memory of Skin Every time I go to the bathroom, I run my wrist over the lines on my thigh that sit like embossed notebook paper, awaiting a story. The sensation reminds me of my mother’s rough newspapered hands and my great aunt’s crocheting fingers which soothed me through sleepless nights, a single thumb pressing me down into a calm by making small circles on my wrists. I would insist that it was my favorite feeling, a dull sandpaper on my skin, a gentle scratch nursing my seven-year-old bewilderment into something more suitable for the Nick at Nite lineup beginning at 9:00 p.m. There is no cover I will not lie under if the darkness it houses is any closer to youth. I run my fingers over the lines on my body, the ones I choose to have and the ones caused by all the stretching I did trying to get out of harm’s way. Sometimes, I get back there in time to watch I Love Lucy, and as I reach for the remote, something wakes me every time. Sometimes, through alarm, other times, the noisy thing that doesn’t stop chattering unless it bites down on my soft skin, scratches me up and down. An evening’s worth of fresh kills is the generous sacrifice I offer. Soothed for now, I press my wrist against the lines on my body and pray I never have to be seven again.
I Envy the Dead I envy the dead for how loved they are, for the folded hands in prayer at a bedside, asking for a sign that they have considered a visit. I envy the dead for being cherished, for having permission to be still. No one unloves the dead, no one stops trying to call, the silence is on the dead's terms— a faint smile disturbs the earth, a dead one forever smiling in someone's fading memory which inflicts a single cut each time it passes through.
Angel Rosen (she/her) is a lesbian, poet, grief expert, a chronically online millennial and neurodivergent human being. She loves The L Word, The Dresden Dolls, and telling stories about the past. Her work (including books) can be found at angelrosen.com.