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Joanna C. Valente


Inside a cave made
of ice is a fire
crackling time bluish—


the only now is
the time

we barely had.

Underneath is
a river
running away—
butterflies in back

ward pain slicing
wings absently.

Which weekend
is it now and with


I touch your back
to rid open of the
poison sleeping in
your bones.


It is not enough
to keep you

from falling
into the river through


a hole we forgot
to plug.


It is quiet now.
I still feel you.

Sometimes I talk

to you in whispers
so no one else hears.

It is vacant here
like space.


I like to believe
you are listening,


misguided into
empty light.


Your coffin lay in a patch of

moonlight at the back of the garden,

a moonless day, moonless


night. Moonless like an orphan,

a sky without a parent. Lying in no dark

listening to birds that you don't know


the names of. No one does.

Are they even there, if they don't

have a name?


Are you still there, even with a dead

body? A name's a name. A named

thing can never


be truly dead. You laugh when you 

remember how I always cried

along to movies, even


the bad ones. Let me in if 

I pray good. It's time to give to you,

give you something other


than my body

 to try. I dare you

to try drinking time 


and making love to it

as if it doesn't hurt like broken

bathroom tile. 


I don't want you to be 

a green mist--another time, a moment 


where you met

me over and over 


and I can't remember you.

There’s no now when you’ve 

eaten time and then


is more now than either

of us will ever know. Take



in that, someone like 

a priest might say. Take comfort

in absolutions not abstractions


like the moonlight of the full 

moon that night

everything changed. 


We are one 

floating above
the ocean.

In another dimension,
we are a UFO
entering a new planet’s orbit.

With you, I am
a new being.


So much bothers me
more than it used to.
Is this who I am now?

The black sludge of volcanic
ash melting like a data witch
peering into a crystal knife
overwhelms you even in 

All the ads I see are versions
of “Do you feel alone?”
“Get help now.”


You show yourself slowly
and this is why I know.
Remember, I love you
like nothing else. 
I don’t even know why.


Your body
laid out

And I want you to be gorgeous
but I am afraid instead.

It is not you.


I don’t cry. I only
cry alone.


Kiki is there in the car and smoking

and we’re Thelma and Louise
and we’re cursing you

for leaving


especially when we could have all


laughing until

we found ourselves

surrounded by clouds

in a lake


& here we are born from stars, going

on & in forever.


Your father’s blue eyes

turned a different blue with longing

for you eternal.


After your body, I am
watching this man and woman

under a rain-soaked sky, yellow

sun marry


and not know the pain of a heart

stopped, too big for a world

where beating is a risk

of losing

that thing that isn’t our body—that

thing we


usually forget about like

a bad TV show.


I want to say, soak it all in,

eat every minute until the blood

drips from your mouth


between your teeth.


Don’t waste it like I wasted

the years on others when I should have been

with you

the whole time,

(I’ve always been dumb that way, my love,

I am sorry,


What is whole like the hearts

that beat in our chests

forever and ever and ever?


This hallway, I see you:

all the lights in all different



and how can I say,

When do I get to see again?


How answers your question

from the last time I saw you
with breath?


Where do I find you except

inside this hallway?


This hallway is long

but I can wait.


Until then, I’ll find different



and turn their lights

on and off, your

body has finally landed


on a feather bed somewhere draped

in purple light and Frank



just for you

strong chords like


your heart that beat so hard

to give, has sailed


itself to far away seas.


You came to me

in dreams and I couldn’t

remember what you said


when I woke up

and all I could feel was

your absence


and see the candle

you moved

knowing what you did


and said would always

be invisible from now on—


the color of dreams.

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