Kelli Russell Agodon

Overcrowded With Ghosts

My nights are packed with mourning—barn swallow in the closet, fishhook attached to its beak.

I once had a sister named Hazard, we daydreamed about orchids, I washed the blood out of her hair.

My nights are packed with panic—thunderstorm in the west of my brain, earthquake beneath my ribs, someone I know is dying, had died, is holding the gate open for death, but death is sleeping on the porch.

Is this the moth my sister longed for? Moth becomes mother becomes a suicide
in the flowers. Orchid. Greenhouse.

When my sister died it wasn’t because she was brokenhearted, instead it was a cancer
that wouldn’t let her swallow. It wasn’t because she grew up without a mother, but because her body grew too much. Like blossoms. Like tumors.

My nights are packed with lightning. Ghost storms of the past, someone whispering, Who’s next? The room is dark with worry. My phone blinks on the nightstand, my sister blinking in the stars.

Fairytale in Fractures

1.
Sometimes through the darkness you can see the bioluminescence in the waves, an ocean of constellations, someone moving a magic wand through the seawater. There was no light streaming through the castle window, but the moat glistened. Everything that shouldn’t glow was glowing, everything that didn’t want to be touched was being touched, and when you disturb the plankton it shines for a moment.

2.
I leave out the part when I was sixteen and my friend took me into the back bedroom of his castle. And instead, I tell you how later that night I walked two miles down railroad tracks carrying a puppy I‘d found, guessing he’d been abused or tossed from a car. I leave out the part where I was hurting and instead focus on the moonlight shadowing Puget Sound, how I knew another train was coming by the ripples in water, how the bioluminescence stayed by my side all night. I leave out the part where he pushed me down on his sister’s twin bed and instead focus on walking to the only vet still open after midnight.

3.
Sometimes in the darkness you can’t see the darkness, like when a friend is no longer a friend, but then, we didn’t have a name for it, like someone moving a wand through the seawater—everything that shouldn’t be known is known, and if you injure the plankton that part of it will die.

4.
I leave out the part where I left the castle, because there never really is a castle and instead tell you the easiest way to stop suffering is to find something more hurt than you are and carry it near your heart for many miles. I won’t describe to you the villains, who are probably not villains in other people’s lives. I won’t go into the details of days/weeks/years after, how long it took to trust again, but will say—I set the puppy in a towel on the receptionist’s lap then washed the blood off of mine. Sometimes we have to walk home alone on railroad tracks. Sometimes we have to do our best to fight off a prince. But because the world hopes for happy endings, I will tell you—the dog and I both survived.

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Kelli Russell Agodon is a poet, writer, and editor from the Pacific Northwest. She’s the author of six books, most recently, Hourglass Museum (Finalist for the Washington State Book Award in Poetry & the Julie Suk Poetry Prize) & The Daily Poet: Day-By-Day Prompts For Your Writing Practice. She is the cofounder of Two Sylvias Press where she works as an editor and book cover designer. Her work has appeared in magazines such as The Atlantic, New England Review and O, The Oprah Magazine. Kelli is also the Co-Director of the Poets on the Coast writing retreat as well as an avid paddleboarder, mountain biker, and hiker. She lives in a sleepy seaside town a floating bridge & a ferry ride away from Seattle. www.agodon.com / www.twosylviaspress.com