Open Casket, 2020 (flesh, memory, unhinged in wood)
by Kelly Vance
This is a body,
an empty parking space nothing shiny ever filled,
a grassland with shadows whispering along its paths,
a coded message too long to decipher in a single lifetime.
My mouth remembers the trails along each impermanent
bicep, but hunger is a waiting game,
plays chicken with death.
We were Janus eyeing a double-edged sword;
two faces running along two opposite paths—
Who are we when we are at our most impermanent?
In your arms, I am a whisper of life; time,
like the smell of jasmine, is so impermanent
you can’t place it—and in this tender game,
I am the struggle and the defeat. I am nothing.
I fall into you like the time I drank too much, was felled
into your tub through a flimsy shower curtain.
I sank my teeth into your arm, made a path
as we wrestled from the bed to the floor,
you laughed like I was crazy. I was impermanent
and crazy, and fully absorbed in our ridiculous game.
I’ll never forget looking up at you from the deep nothing,
both of us laughing—inexplicably lost and fulfilled.
Now, as your memorial live-streams into my office, I am filled
with the conflict of everything we never said, the paths
neither of us chose, the half-remembered lifetimes
of tacit apologies and entirely impermanent
enmities we boxed away, playing anger like a child’s game.
And I won’t say it’s better to believe the dead regret nothing.
Kelly Vance is a graduate student in Eastern Kentucky University’s MFA program in creative writing where she received the Emerging Writers Award for poetry in 2021. In 2019, she completed the Conscious Feminine Leadership Academy affiliated with Women Writing for (a) Change, Cincinnati, and incorporates many conscious leadership concepts into her writing, mentorship, and professional work as a psychiatrist.