How Death Made Me Stop (Part I)

For Beau, 12/3/1952 to 12/2/1976


I was just a girl,

And it was just some decade,

In that time lived you,

And then, another.


I was just a girl,

Without a home,

No family,

And a hole for a heart.


You were tall and dangerous,

Tall and hump-backed with Marfan’s,

Your connective tissue disintegrating with each minute,

Monkish with a single bed, a bag of dope, and a pile of books,

Perfect for an empty-hearted girl.


We filled each other’s hearts,

Pouring our loneliness and need back and forth,

I took yours and you took mine,

You took mine and gave me yours;

An empty-hearted girl and a doped up monk,

We loved well together.


Hearts are strange,

Made of muscle and blood,

But also need and loneliness,

(remember all that loneliness going back and forth?).

And junkie hearts collapse sometimes,

All that loneliness tearing into the aorta,

Thinning the walls,

Until there is no wall, but a hole.


Sick junkies,

Well, it’s even worse,

And you were dying, dying,

We didn’t know it until the last year.

It was the year of the bicentennial,

Everything was red, white, and blue,

You read Gurdjieff,

In the muslin robe I made you,

Even after six years and two babies you remained a monk.


You’d had a dream of hospitals,

A dream of your blood flooding your heart,

You spent days and nights praying that you wouldn’t be reborn,

Readying yourself for death,

Once was enough, you said.


On Thanksgiving day you fell,

You were holding your guitar in our yellow kitchen,

You fell, the guitar fell,

To the floor,

We all fell into a week of dying.


There were hospitals,

Doctors who thought you were just another junkie looking for some Talwin,

That tried to send you home.

Later doctors speaking Pakistani drew me pictures of your heart on paper napkins,

And explained where your blood was seeping, was seeping,

It was everywhere, but mostly your chest.


The week was hollow,

All sound sucked out by your dying,

I hitch-hiked from our place to your bed in the I.C.U.,

Where you laid too tall,

Your bony feet sticking out,

Your bony chest and long fingers so waxy white.


I wanted to bring you home,

But I was only twenty,

And the hospital was bright and scary,

With doctors telling me our business over and over and over.


After one week, you died,

Your heart torn into flapping tissue,

By Marfans and junk,

My heart filled with our years together,

And particularly the year of your dying,

Until my heart was bursting, aching with loss,

And the empty-hearted girl finally was full,

And so here is when I started to decide to stop.

About Avery Cassell

Avery Cassell is a queer butch San Francisco writer, poet, cartoonist, and artist who grew up in Iran.
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2 Responses to How Death Made Me Stop (Part I)

  1. Paul says:

    You are a fabulous poet. These last three poems all with different tones and sounds but all careful, original and perfectly made. And this one is a masterpiece of a tribute poem brings the whole relationship to life and then fades it out again. Superb.


  2. Brad says:

    Such thoughtful and moving poetry. I am looking forward to visiting often. Great work!


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