after Marie Howe’s title of the same name I. The night you died, the microwave died right along with you. But I didn’t. I had to keep doing all the things the living do after the dead are gone. I had to go to the store with Dad to get a new microwave the next morning so he could continue to heat up his oatmeal the way he was used to. II. Every morning thereafter, we had to build a to-do list a mile long. I had to find things to keep us busy. We had to go to the funeral home to arrange your cremation. We had to pick out urns to put your ashes in. I had to portion you out. I had to write your obituary. I had to decide on no funeral. III. I had to go to the jeweler with Dad to get the rings you left me resized. Dad had to put all of your palliative medication in a box to return to Hospice. I had to pack up your wigs and give them to the ladies dying of cancer there. I had to have a teddy bear made out of a pair of your favorite pajamas. IV. We had to make phone calls to tell people you were dead. I had to keep my voice steady while many people cried at the news. Dad had to call the insurance company and social security to let them know you were gone. I had to sort through your cabinets and your closets. V. Dad had to wash the clothes you died in. I had to clean the hair out of your last hairbrush. I had to throw away your toothbrush. We had to decide what to do with all of your things. I had to decide which I could bear to look at, to predict which I would miss most. I had to take a pill to keep calm. VI. We had to keep it together. We had to eat in front of people so they wouldn’t worry. I had to say I would be fine when I felt like I wouldn’t be. We had to be presentable for the world—comb our hair, take showers, look like we were still alive. VII. I had to bear my first heartbreak without you. I had to see your face in mine when I looked in the mirror. I had to sleep on the couch because I couldn’t sleep in my bed that was so close to the room that housed the bed you died in. I had to console the cat who kept crying at your death room door. VIII. After a few days, I had to step on a plane and return to work almost like nothing happened. I had to “people.” I had to talk. I had to stop crying. I had to breathe. I had to do the things the living are required to do too soon after death. I had to get a new life. I had to keep living after you were gone.
Nicole Tallman is the Poetry Ambassador for Miami-Dade County and Poetry and Interviews Editor for The Blue Mountain Review. She is the author of Something Kindred (The Southern Collective Experience Press), and her next two books, FERSACE and POEMS FOR THE PEOPLE, are forthcoming from Redacted Books and Really Serious Literature, respectively. She is also the editor of STAY GOLDEN, a Golden Girls-inspired special zine published by The Daily Drunk, and co-editor with Maureen Seaton of We Who Rise from Saltwater, Let’s Sing!, a collaborative Heroic Sonnet Crown for the Mayor and residents of Miami-Dade County. Find her on Twitter and Instagram @natallman and at nicoletallman.com.
Guest Editor Latorial Faison is the author of Mother to Son, the trilogy collection, 28 Days of Poetry Celebrating Black History, and other titles. A graduate of UVA and VA TECH, she recently, completed doctoral studies at Virginia State University and published The Missed Education of the Negro: An Examination of the Black Segregated Education Experience in Southampton County. This Furious Flower Poetry Center fellow, Pushcart nominee, and Tom Howard Poetry Prize winner has been published in Artemis Journal, West Trestle Review, Obsidian: Literature and Art in the African Diaspora, PRAIRIE SCHOONER, and elsewhere. Forthcoming work, Mama Was a Negro Spiritual, was a semi-finalist for The CAVE CANEM POETRY PRIZE. Faison is married, has three sons, and teaches at Virginia State University.