we are only renters taking hammer and nail to our apartments

we pinned your father’s crooked backbone to our blank wall last night, pulling our fingerprints against the brick and plaster to find the old holes left behind by strangers. we ended up making new ones for ourselves: old song and dance of doing damage in order to create. we framed his ghost. we made him see through. black and white: his old xrays cut on that box of light I bought from the carolina beach section of craigslist. up like art, he was clear and simple and alive again. finally he was the kind of transparent you’d always wanted and needed him to be. neatly labeled and glowing imperfections. what a relief for you. he was smaller than life, than his own death. fully visible. in pieces. everything dated so you knew when he was this specific broken. when he was fixed afterward.

the rest of the night you were aching like our old heart pine floors underfoot. those scans like memories. like scalpels. like cutting your fingernails too short. I am sorry all I said was how beautiful it looked to have his bones beveled like that. I am sorry he was not so neat in his flesh. you have to tell me you are happy I never met him. sorry I never did. you have stories of him that are beautiful and fragile as rust. others that lack all air. absolve: lights have switches. forgive me for considering this as gift.

About Sally J. Johnson

Sally J. Johnson’s poetry and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in the Collagist, Bodega, Weave, and Everyday Genius. Her essay, “Teach My Body How To Behave” was a finalist for the Redivder Beacon Street Prize. She can also be found on Twitter and Tumblr.

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