Silence (NaPoWriMo 2016)

Today’s NaPoWriMo prompt is to “write a poem based on things you remember.” The challenge is inspired by Joe Brainard’s work, I Remember.

This one was hard for me to write.


I remember coming awake in my creaking twin bed,
Sheets tangled, my body twisted into a pretzel
As only a teenage boy can achieve,
And hearing the silence in our house.

I remember the early morning sunlight,
So yellow, so flush with vigor for the coming day,
A color and energy only seen
At the beginning of summer vacation,
Streaming through the space between
The off-white venetian blinds and the window frame,
Piercing my eye, reddening the inside of my eyelids.

I remember the creeping sense that something was wrong.
I remember brushing it off as remnants of
An already unremembered dream.

I remember the smell of growing grass,
The hot smell of morning light on lawns
And sidewalks and shingled roofs.

I remember the sound of traffic in the street,
My neighbors off to their jobs, as I relished
My summer freedom from responsibility.

I remember the silence in the house.

I remember gritting the sand from my eyes,
Wiping my nose on my pillow case
(teenage boys can be disgusting),
And stumbling to my closet,
The closet door barely discernible through
The heavy metal band posters covering
Every square inch of my bedroom walls, hiding
The awful yellow paint I’d chosen for my own room.

I remember how soft my bathrobe was,
Worn thin in all the right places, tie frayed and useless,
And how it smelled like Tide and Downy.

I remember the silence in the house.

I remember crashing down the stairs, shuffling into the kitchen.

I remember how the cabinet with the cereal had
A hinge that always squeaked when I opened it.

I remember how I almost knocked over the plates
As I dug out my favorite large bowl (I never understood
Why my mom insisted on burying it all the way in back,
When she knew it was my favorite.)

I remember the smell of carpet cleaner, and wondering
Why my mom had cleaned the carpet so early in the day.

I remember that the dog wasn’t in her usual spot,
Napping under the end table next to the couch in the living room.

I remember wondering where my mom and dad,
Where my brother and sister, were, and why I hadn’t
Seen any of them yet, and why none of them
Were in the kitchen eating breakfast with me.

I remember cutting my finger on the cardboard
When I opened the brand new box of cereal, and
The popping sound of the glue on the flap giving way,
And how the inner plastic bag split down the side
Instead of tearing neatly at the top.

I remember the sound of cereal falling to the floor,
The sharp, rattling, sliding percussion,
And I remember tapping my foot to call the dog
From wherever she was to come eat up my mess.

I remember the silence, the desolate lack
Of claws clicking on the faded linoleum.

After it was all over, my parents told me
They didn’t want to wake me.

I was the only one still asleep when it started,
When the dog woke up and her hind legs didn’t work
Anymore, and she couldn’t control her bowels,
And her shame as she soiled the living room carpet.

I was the only one in the house still asleep as they
Called the vet in a panic to get advice, as they
Tried to help her to stand up, to lie back down,
To get comfortable. As they petted and reassured her,
Told her she was a good dog, that she was our girl,
That it would all be OK. As she licked their fingers,
And wagged her tail, and tried to reassure them
That it would all be OK.

I was the only one still asleep as they
Carried her out to the car, as my mom and dad
And brother and sister scrambled into their seats,
And buckled their seat belts, and held the dog close,
And pulled out of our three-stall garage,
As the front tires skidded when my dad hit the gas
Too hard, and the car didn’t get traction right away
On the gravel in the alley, and then it did,
And he drove too fast all the way to the vet’s office.

They said they wanted to let me sleep.
They sought to spare me the pain of seeing these things.
They meant it to be kind. But

I wasn’t there.

When they carried her from the car, scared and in pain,
As they waited in the warm and welcoming reception area,
As they brought her back to the exam room,
And gently laid her on the cold metal table,
As the needles pierced her skin, and the plungers
Pushed medicines into her blood,
To take away her pain, to take away her breath.

I remember that I wasn’t there.

She was our good girl, and she left us all,
And I never got to say goodbye.

I was the only one still asleep.

I remember waking up.

I remember the silence.

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