“Misery,” oil on canvas, by Cristóbal Rojas, 1886.

57 Silent

We were both born
during the big turn.
And twenty years later,
they put the TBs
in the old Civil War hospital
down on Canal Street.
We all thought that people
strong like us
weren’t supposed to get sick like that.

But in our good times
of magnetism and scarlet faces,
violent bodies violently colliding,
I remember the seltzer smell.
I remember the feeling of wet clay,
of how the heady plants wept.
Though, I’m most afraid
of the things I’ve forgotten.

After you were sealed in earth
your mother finally broke
the code of the unspoken,
saying, ‘Maybe it’s best
that you didn’t end up marrying.’
And the parlor air rested softly.

Elvis died, Son of Sam captured,
and Ford forgave Tokyo Rose;
everything you missed this year.
Don’t be overwhelmed.
I’ve got you in my hands.
Your mother gave up the ghost finally;
I took back your ashes.
Now, after fifty-seven years
a silence that once loomed,
like gravity’s pull,
is dashed by a sigh of ‘good riddance.’

Carried To Ohio

When the beam snapped,
the rope that clung to my life slipped.
The roof caved in as
I saw the floorboards part,
revealing the Cuyahoga gushing below.

I fell down out of the house.
Thrashing, I screamed a siren
of hysteria: Mea Culpa!
The lush river rapids
raged on for me,
carrying me home.

The still point
of that moving moment
is the gasp
from my breast
hitting the raw water.


Amelia Leff has a B.A. in creative writing from Ohio Northern University. She is currently working on a novel.