“Deadbeat” by Nancy Miller Gomez

Nancy Miller Gomez


You died the year our youngest son turned one.
Eyes closed, mouth slack, hair splayed
around your face like an electric fence,
a rusty crown on an otherworldly prince.

It was the final affront, the end
to the prolonged “fuck you” of your short life—
leaving all those promises you made eternally unfulfilled,
and me with two needy children tethered
to the unsteady buoy of my heart, all of us holding on
for dear life, riding out the riptides
of utility bills and rent and getting food on the table.
Hand-me-downs and homework.
All those things you couldn’t help with.

I am still emptying out the dumpster of our years together.
Old hypodermics and empty bottles,
shoeboxes filled with notebooks and guitar picks.
I am still finding the landmines you left.
Like today when our daughter turned her head
and I saw the dimple that used to bloom
in a crescent moon on the right side of your smile.
And that familiar grief moved through me
like blood stains spreading across sheets.

And all that love comes rushing back
in a sucker punch ringing of fresh starts.
And gratitude. I remember
those years when you were still alive
and always around
to haunt us.

from Rattle #52, Summer 2016

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Nancy Miller Gomez: “Poetry helps me to make emotional sense of my life. Each poem is a struggle to clarify something I don’t yet understand. ‘Deadbeat’ came to me with the line, ‘you’re more romantic now that you’re dead.’ That line is no longer in the poem. What remains is the idea that we carry the ghosts of those we’ve loved both before and after they’ve died. ‘Supernova’ grapples with my experience of grief as something both tangible and immeasurable.”

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