For Heather Keena Askeland, who deserves to be named The night we first met. We devoured vegan Buffalo wings, so tart and smoky we laughed, smacking our lips in praise. Drank cinnamon tea from antique china cups, thin cracks veined across their surfaces, and clinked them together with abandon. You proclaimed I get a crush on everyone I meet, leaning in, brushing my palm. The day we didn’t quite hike up Mount Hood, both far too sick, but instead pressed palm to sweating palm, and skirted its volcanic edges. You peeled off your clothes, laid yourself bare beneath the sun. I took hundreds of photographs of you— belligerent pixie, hair the color of pickled ginger. The nights we spent in a hotel with crisp cotton sheets and an oversized bathtub. I massaged orange blossom shampoo into your scalp, your naked body crescent mooned into mine. We scrawled Rumi poems across each other’s pale skin; mine surgery-scarred, yours freckled as the flesh of an over-ripe banana; using blue and green bath crayons we’d found at the corner drugstore. White mounds of bubbles gathered at your nipples. Rarely did we sleep. The weekend you visited me in Virginia. Both of us too ill to do much more than drink horchata from bed, watching old Margaret Cho comedy specials with our unshaven legs twined together. When you threw up even the horchata, I wrapped myself around you from behind and hummed “Sweet Baby James” into the damp nape of your neck. We stumbled into a savage fight just before you boarded the bus back to New York. Something pointless about a parking ticket and a missing bottle of Pepto Bismol. I sobbed as you refused to look back at me through the dirt-smudged windows. The night you took your life. The computer screen swimming before my face like a many tentacled sea creature. Your obituary did not use the name you’d chosen for yourself. It called you a musical prodigy, but in the last months of your life, you’d sold your childhood violin to pay for medicine. Sometimes I still argue with you late at night. I know how much you loved to have the last word, but never guessed you’d take it this far. Now I unwind clocks and play old cassette tapes backwards because reverse is the most beautiful thing I can possibly imagine. Your body lifting from the train tracks. Your lungs filling like a greedy accordion. Your blood going blue.
First published in Wrongdoing Magazine.
Robin Kinzer is a queer, disabled poet, memoirist, and editor. She is an MFA candidate at University of Baltimore. Robin has poems and essays published, or forthcoming, in Kissing Dynamite, Wrongdoing Magazine, fifth wheel press, Corporeal Lit, Defunkt Magazine, Ice Queen Magazine, and others. She is a Poetry Editor for the winnow, and will begin serving as Poetry Editor for Broadkill Review in 2023. She loves glitter. She can be found on Twitter at @RobinAKinzer and her work can be read on her website robinkinzer.com