After Fourteen Years by Sara Backer

After Fourteen Years

I confess to my best friend that when he abruptly stops
snoring and lies with his back to me, weirdly quiet, I fear
he might no longer be alive. Not wanting to wake him,
I strain to hear his breath. I raise my head and squint
in the dark to see if his breath is stretching his ribs. Failing that,
I touch his neck, my fingers reassured by his slight motion.
I expect him to reply with a joke. I know if he says yes,
I’m dead, don’t bother me he means he is afraid to voice
the truth dressed up in mawkish clothes for fear we’ll start
to wear them. But sensed truth untold is slippery—apt to flip
flop or go askew—much the same as expectations, because
he says, I do that, too, when you are sick, your body so still

—and I think but don’t say maybe I die, but I come back for you.


Sara Backer’s first book of poetry, Such Luck, follows two chapbooks: Scavenger Hunt, and Bicycle Lotus, which won the Turtle Island Chapbook Award. Her honors include a prize in the Plough Poetry Competition, nine Pushcart nominations, and fellowships from the Norton Island and Djerassi resident artist programs. Recent publications include Lake Effect, Slant, Poetry Northwest, and Poetry Ireland. She currently lives in New Hampshire and reads for The Maine Review.