The attic was where her family kept
what was no longer useful or what might
be used later. At fifteen, feeling herself
lost beyond rescue, she went
up the stairs to the slant roofed room
and fell onto the might-be-used-sometime
couch among the might-be-read-again books
and cried. Two young cousins drowned
by the saving of each other and now
the whole house weeping.
Maybe it was too much for her, too sudden
and too mean. It seemed as though all the pages
had been torn from the attic books and the covers
laid open. Death was no more fair than life,
she knew that, knew that every day was
a waiting to die day.
Later her big sister brought her a small bowl
of mashed potatoes and a blanket. Arms around
each other they stood listening to the old dog
coming slowly up the stairs.
Copyright 2016, Julianna McCarthy
Julianna McCarthy is a Schieble Sonnet Prize winner, a Pushcart Prize nominee, and The Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize finalist. Her poems have appeared in The Antioch Review, The Tidal Basin Review, and Nimrod.