When I Am Dead, My Dearest
(after Christina Rosetti’s “Song”)
When I am dead, my dearest,
don’t marry one who loves
to camp, canoe, and hike
in dark forests in August
when everywhere else is bright.
And if you will, forget
the concerts through which
I dozed, the fuss I made
the times you left the knife
on the counter in summer,
sticky with jam and ants galore.
Or else you may remember
how much you do not miss me.
And I want you to miss me
loudly and largely —
a staggering amount,
the number of atoms in a mole.
All those moles I had
that you likened to stars.
And if you will, remember,
it will be only half as much
as I will miss you.
We had it in Brooklyn,
down the block from our house.
The boys wrote: Pete the Cheat;
Chuck the F—-. We were children.
No one spelled out the F word.
Down the opposite way, a new sidewalk
was laid in front of the house
where the twins lived
with their older sister
who wasn’t quite right.
One day, my brother called me
excitedly — come see this extraordinary sight.
I took his hand, and we flew down the street.
I would fly anywhere with him.
His world was always so much more
exciting than mine. When we arrived,
he pointed to small bits of quartz
glistening on the newly paved slabs.
Look, diamonds, he said. I grinned.
I didn’t want to seem unimpressed,
and I wasn’t. It was just that then
I knew we would always see the world differently,
and care about different things.
And worse, that I might even see the world
more accurately than he would.
And he would be happy, and I would not.
And to this day I wonder:
What happened to that girl?
Rose Schachner’s poetry, fiction and reviews have been published in The Nation, The New York Times, the North American Review and other publications. John Keats and Elizabeth Bishop first inspired her love of poetry. Now she is inspired by too many others to name.