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Undiagnosis by Jacob Nantz

To wonder where this began is to retrace

memory: a day in autumn, trees half dead,

half living. In the air, the smell of leaves

and sticks burning, smoke meddling with fog,

no way to distinguish one from the other.

We walked home on the sidewalk that twisted

through our neighborhood, our double helix

to home, grocery bags filled until their square

bottoms rounded out. I walked quickly those days.

I had no reason but found one, always, to leave you

behind. That day, your bag began tearing

at the seams. I could not see it, only felt you

falling behind as the sun dipped below the crooked

tree-line. I could see my breath as I cursed you

to hurry. First fell the stronger items, those

which remained intact when they struck the pavement.

We walked past our childhood—parks and slides,

fields, the small forest where neighbor kids smoked

cigarettes, where, once I grew too old for bikes, you

also smoked cigarettes. First you scraped up produce

from cement. Then you saw stars when it was still light,

swore they were following you, were to blame. I did not

believe you. Next fell the easily bruised. Your trust fragile

as eggs, you tried to keep up. Why couldn’t you do it.

Why couldn’t you keep it all intact. I wish I could have

stopped it, or known, even, that you aren’t at fault. Someone

could have told us it’s okay to feel broken. I would have helped

instead of walking. Even now, I notice the yolk on our fingers.

I pretend to see stars next to the sun. It’s buying me time

to seek help before regret storms in, splits my heart in two.



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