after Hala Alyan
by BEE LB
in front of me is the whole horizon.
though i know i’ll never touch it,
i can’t stop reaching.
i have never felt time as acutely as this season.
each second a grain of sand, each hour a rock
in the river, each day a continuing erosion.
two weeks turns into four
and when i cannot count on time to pass,
i count instead the aging years.
there is so much still to do.
i’ve learned i favor beauty above all,
though i define beauty loosely.
i have become rigid in my waiting.
i’m tired of august.
its bleeding heat ending in the
anniversary of the birth that lead to mine.
time is a lineage i cannot follow.
the days marked only by the sky’s changing.
mornings marked by my wasted potential.
my mother and i do not speak of dying.
we avoid the present tense.
she presses her index finger
against my chest and pain blooms
like a bead of blood ushered
into the world by the smallest incision.
for weeks i have measured the would-be tumor
against the length of my index finger.
i have learned to diagnose fear.
i am told i have great capacity for pain
and i choke on the laughter that builds in my chest.
capacity, endurance, and enjoyment
all have differing definitions,
yet i look at them the same.
i have moved from constant monitoring
to six incisions a day.
what was once a step forward
is now two steps back.
my body does not know when it is upright
my heart skips a beat as if it does not know
we are no longer a young child jumping over cracks
or skipping down the hall
or curling smaller between the boxspring
and the floor.
my mind does not know it is only part of my body.
fear is the hair caught in the throat
and the resulting choke.
fear is the tongue caught between two fingers
and the garbled sound that comes after.
fear is the way i explain to my mother
the workarounds of doctor patient confidentiality
so she can speak of suicide and violence
without the threat of police involvement.
though the threat of police is neverending.
fear is being brought from the courtroom
to judge’s chambers and one small breach of privacy
grows into a life looking over its own shoulder.
when told something it can’t comprehend,
the mind has a tendency to forget.
the mind being my mind,
though i’m often scared to say.
i only pray when i’m scared to die.
i’m only scared to die when i feel it’s imminent
and unplanned. or planned but rushed.
when i say pray i mean wish
to an unnamed recipient.
my wishes are never ending,
though they often float into nothing.
i allow my mother to place me on her prayer chain;
she believes it is more for her comfort than mine
and she isn’t wrong
but she isn’t entirely right.
there are nights i dream as my mother.
my mother dreams as an eagle.
i dream of killing my father.
what is killing my father may well
i dream of killing my mother’s husband
or my mother’s husband killing me
in every version of this dream, she chooses
there’s nothing to pray away
but when i wake
i take specific steps to ensure i’m still living.
i do not fight the current.
i often dream of swimming out
reaching until my arms can reach no more,
allowing my body to test the limit of its strength
and then succumb.
i dream this with my eyes open.
i dream this with the pad of my finger
against my chest.
i dream this each time i wish for something
out of my control.
because i can believe anything, i believe the end
will be beautiful and entirely out of my hands.
About the Author
BEE LB is an array of letters, bound to impulse; a writer creating delicate connections. they have called any number of places home; currently, a single yellow wall in Michigan. they have been published in Revolute Lit, Roanoke Review, and Figure 1, among others. they are the 2022 winner of FOLIO’s Editor’s Prize for Poetry, as well as the Bea Gonzalez Prize for Poetry. they are a poetry reader for Capsule Stories. their portfolio can be found at twinbrights.carrd.co