I Proofread My Friend’s Last Essay

Anne Barngrover

            she never finished before she died, and I connect

my old phone to its charger for the first time

            since a week after she’d gone. It doesn’t work.

I mean it does, it still turns on —

            our messages preserved from beyond

eighteen months ago now, pinned

            honeybees crystalized in their own

sugar and gold, in what they have made

            and taken and made and given, together —

but this isn’t what I need.

            I need to talk to her. I need to ask,

how did you write your sentences the same

            way a river flows, each pause a deliberate

water stone? I need another kind

            of punctuation mark to reach out and hold

on to like an anchor, like a hand,

            but I’ll always have this larger question

about time. I forgot this morning we push

            the light forward, the clocks bewildering

me in their senseless moving on. I’m not ready

            for this draft to be final one.

I need to find a new way to talk about the love

            and pain I have felt every hour

since our parting, the love and pain

            that have bloomed around me

like the trumpet trees in their gusts

            of blush and lilac and sun-drawn

yellow, the color I’ve come to associate with her

            whenever I see it. Wild and clever,

how these trees show their fullest selves

            in the depths of mid-winter, when all

seems dark and we’ve been so long apart

            from our final letters, but I’ve read

that trees can talk to each other underground

            in their roots and in their cells, far deeper

than first thought. She has changed

            me a season’s measure — some people

are born again and again, find each other

            as different versions of the same question,

or find each other in the question, and know.

            I press my palm to the laptop, the phone

screen, to the crushed yellow flower that falls

            open like a song, to the heartbeat

of her words she’s ended on. My pulse is a text

            message — I’ll keep trying to hit Send.


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