Poetry Didn’t Save My Life

Katrina K Guarascio

Poetry didn’t save my life,
but we did swim naked together
in the lake up north
one sunny afternoon when we thought
no one was looking,

and we’ve been caught more than once
sharing a cup of bitter coffee and overly sugared pie
at all night truck stops off the highway
along the hours of one a.m.

She brushed my hair the morning
of my grandfather’s funeral.

and helped me stitch ripped skin and
scrub spots of teenage blood
from the carpet before I was old enough
to know better.

She sang with me in the passenger seat
on the drive from Bakersfield to Porterville
when the string of spotted horse
raced alongside us over the golden hills.

She’s the one who threw
the jawbone of the dead rabbit
at my windshield.

No, poetry didn’t save my life,
but I’ve watched her save others.

She pulls bodies from the snow,
throws a line if they can’t reach her fingers,
and leaves them to sleep it off on my living room couch.

Just as I bring as many as I can gather
strapped tall atop the hood of car and
dragged through still burning field
to her door.

I pass her gospel,
the most diligent of missionaries.

We are sisters,
lovers,
playmates,
co-conspirators,

we stand on opposite sides of the same bed
to balloon sheets and straighten comforter,

she encases my body with both arms
and recites Where the Wild Things Are
as she rocks me to sleep
long after the boys are gone.

We are intertwined,
blonde streaking brown more discreetly
than the white of time.

She resides nestled
under skin inside bone,
tangled inside every vein of my forearm,
knotted into bent knees and calloused feet,

and late at night,
she whispers her stories in my ear
seeds I scrawl to page
before they slip back into the sheets.

I repay this kindness
by humming incantations in the cadence
she taught me
in every word I write,
in every sound I utter,
across every mile I travel.

And when she outlives me,
as all revered loves do,

she will miss her cockeyed collaborator
and rhapsodize eulogies
when no one remains to listen.

She didn’t find me,
resurrect me,
breath life back into me,
we’ve always been together,
here,
one.

“Poetry didn’t save my life” is previously published in Catching Calliope Vol 1 Winter 2014.