“In Memory Of” by Peg Duthie
My aunt hanged herself, but her children
told the press she’d overdosed on pills.
It was in fact pills for the boyfriend of
my then best friend. She had her own pills,
and I never found out if they helped or healed her:
I moved away. She stopped writing back.
I pictured my letters chewed into spitwads.
There were pills, too, for Mr. Popularity—
a prince of my high school back in ’85.
They guided his hands to a gun. It fire-carved his name
onto memorial plaques and trophies.
Since then, there have been more pills,
more guns, one river, and obituaries
leaving out more than they share.
I hurl an old yearbook into the dumpster:
four days later, I fish it out
in spite of the stains it acquired.
I salvage a few pages, snipping out squares
and folding them into boats, planes, and swans.
Some nights I dream they’re all in Chicago,
lugging NyQuil crates through the dirty snow
or chewing on candy necklaces as they ride
a trolley that endlessly loops a dead Loop.
And still all I ever can do is watch.
Sometimes I field a camera lacking film:
I recite to myself their names, their dates,
and the colors staining their painworn lips,
but everything on my palms melts into the fog.
I gaze and yet forget. I fumble and drop
my leftover aspirin into Lake Michigan
as if it could magick the water, could harness
the light to their shadows, develop their faces
back into nearness, back into touch.
First published in the Detroit Metro Times, July 1997
Share your response to this work, in any form, here
Peg Duthie’s Artist Statement: Peg Duthie is a bisexual Taiwanese Texan museum editor and sports photographer. She worked for almost a decade in Michigan before moving to Tennessee. She is the author of Measured Extravagance (Upper Rubber Boot, 2012), and there’s more about her at nashpanache.com.