Robin Kinzer – The Last Word

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

Photo by Dan Cristian Pu0103dureu021b on