Poem of the Week | July 29, 2019
Komal Mathew “After A Long Walk, My Daughter Asks Why We Can’t Just Die Together”
This week’s Poem of the Week is Komal Mathew’s “After A Long Walk, My Daughter Asks Why We Can’t Just Die Together.”
Komal Mathew is a graduate of Georgia Institute of Technology and Sarah Lawrence College. Her poems appear in The New Republic, Crazyhorse, Prairie Schooner, CALYX, diode, Beloit Poetry Journal, and others. Her manuscript, “Dressing for Diwali,” was a finalist for the National Poetry Series Open Competition. She lives with her husband and three children in Atlanta, Georgia, where she is the co-founding editor of Josephine Quarterly and Three Revisions.
After A Long Walk, My Daughter Asks Why We Can’t Just Die Together
We have looked at pool covers and rusty drains
We have searched red bushes for thorns, scraped
an elbow on a brick step.
We have announced no doggie, no doggie, not over here.
Then ran with heads turned back, our long thick
Indian hair blocking our view.
We have witnessed iridescent bubbles lit in the soapy sun, waiting:
Right left right left stop. Then danced on the yellow rippled ramps
leading us to new tar roads.
My smallest known tour guide, you are not tired.
You are never tired—
my soreless child, my fossil
splintering each year you grow
stronger and faster.
We are on the corner going somewhere set in stone,
and you lunge towards Spring Street, your small arm
pulling towards the curved walkway, your neck beaked
like a soldier pulling a flag to the ground—this is the way.
I pull and lunge towards Church, lining up one foot
in front of the other while you keep turning,
loving nothing carved from this world.
This is important: the tradition of never finishing
the ritual—a bedtime routine, a coffee pot
on the hot plate again and again, the thin glass
that always breaks, but if you do it on purpose,
(say for a wedding), it will mean something.
It will mean something if it never ends
like all the blue fireworks we watch to lighten your face
and darken my shoulder. This memory will be buried
somewhere so deep in your nerves, in the room of our living,
that later even when you can’t remember your college address,
you will know there are brighter places that feel like our home.
To go separately means that either I walk behind
or you—like a man rushing through morning
pedestrians go into a building, up the stairs,
to an office that’s really a room made of boxes
and tape. It means like a man, you will go first
and then we can just forget about our walk,
Argentina in the summer, the Micah clock. The stories
will stay on the shelf. To go separately means one of us
will die breathing in. It means one of us will walk
on cracks hoping for a heart swallow. It means the back
of your earring will still be lost and forget about six
or seven or eight. It will mean one day folding into fifty years
So why can’t we go together?—the reasons are wide and deep and high,
but we will go separately while one of us waits
at the bus stop—Will it be you?—
one of us will start drinking
coffee to remember that plan we had
on the calendar, to go for a walk that leads us
to a coffee shop where I could tell you:
I don’t love you like the small things
you carry in your pocket.
I don’t love you like the things
you carry on your back.
I love you like you could live forever.
Our family has had significant losses where my children, particularly my daughter, desire real answers on death. Why do we die? When will I die? Will you die before me? This poem is a love letter to my children, a reflection of my honest response to my daughter’s questions — because it’s hard to imagine an end to what was borne out of unrelenting love.
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