I Still Know Your Name

Another slam poem for the poetry competition.

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1. I Still Know Your Name

 

FIVE YEARS.

That’s how long it took to sink in

that you’re gone.

Tornado warning.

It made me remember.

When I was a little girl,

I loved to watch The Wizard of Oz.

And you were there.

You told me there was a magic button

on the remote.

And if you pushed it at just the right moment,

Dorothy's world would spring into color.

I watched you hit that button so many times

and the screen would change from black and white

to Oz, the land of colors.

For me, it never worked.

That was when I realized the magic wasn’t in the remote.

It was in you.


 

You used to own the house next door to mine.

Then you lived there on rent.

And when that fell through,

you moved into one of the sheds in the yard.

My parents would drive you to Food Lion.

Beer, cigarettes, and ice cream sandwiches.

That’s what you bought.

You kept the ice cream in my freezer

because you didn’t have one of your own anymore.

And when it was summer,

you would come over every day.

We ate ice cream sandwiches together on my deck.

You had the biggest heart I’ve ever seen.

But now it lays silent in your dead chest

buried under the dirt.


 

Every year on the 4th of July,

you would come over.

We would have a bonfire

and stay up late into the night.

Shadow boxing and roasting marshmallows.

We haven’t done that since you died.

“The Yankees are coming, the Yankees are coming!”

you would declare

every time you heard or saw a plane.

The Gray Guy was a ghost.

Peaceful, but dead.

A figment.

A story.

He was your friend.

You said that he lived in one of the sheds.

The one you ended up living in.

When you moved in, you said he went underground.

I saw him a few times when I was little,

always at a distance.

But I haven’t seen him since you left.

I guess he followed you to the grave.


 

Eventually, you moved out of that shed.

You left.

But you visited us often.

You had become family to me.

And when you died,

I wasn’t at your funeral.

I was at camp.

I never cried

or said goodbye.

I didn’t even try.

Yes, you’re dead,

and nothing can change that,

but I never paid you my respects

when you were laid to rest.

I should have been sad

just for a day.

I never stopped my life

for the end of yours.

And I hope that wherever you are,

you can hear me.

Because I still know your name.

And now I’m saying goodbye.

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