5 untitled poems [from] The Survivor by Jenn Koiter

~ These untitled poems are from a longer sequence
by Jenn Koiter titled “The Survivor” ~

[from] The Survivor


All I remember about your body
in its casket are the thick, black sutures
across the top of your bald head, and
the color of your skin: darkened,
mottled, like you were one big bruise.

Perhaps I should have taken
another look, a longer look,
but how long can anyone stand
before a miracle, and your body
stitched and purpled and emptied, was
a miracle: wine back into water,
water back into the rock.


A few books, a few candles, a few tools
in the garage. A few pans in the kitchen,
a few games by the TV. That’s all.
In the bedroom, no pictures to take down, no clutter, just
your smartwatch charging neatly on its stand.
How little clothing there was to take to Goodwill:
four pairs of pants, twelve tee shirts, two suits.
How little of yourself
spilled into the things around you.
How lightly you walked on the earth.


Last visit to your house, carrying out your drill, your hoodie, the last food in your fridge.

Last squeeze of the conditioner you said smelled like your grandma.

Last text from one of your friends saying I can call them anytime, they mean it, anytime.

Last conference call with your name still on the agenda, last email from you in my inbox, your last text falling off the bottom of my screen.

Last clean tee shirt you washed for me, whiff of dryer sheet over my face.

Last car wash coupon from the pack you bought me.

Last handful of the sriracha peas you left at my door.

The cashmere scarf I gave you for your birthday, the last thing in the world that smells like you.


Your absence is no more like hunger
Than any lack, except that
I feel it in my stomach.
Except that it intrudes,
it nags. It persists.

Except that sometimes
I miss you without noticing, then
notice, like realizing,
ravenous, that I’ve been
hungry for a while now.

No, your absence is not
particularly like hunger, though
I’ve also never been
hungry and also certain
I would never eat again.


First morning, first week, first thirteen days

First xanax I took to sleep.

First moment not thinking about you, then thinking about you.

First funny thing I thought, for an instant, that I would tell you later.

First meal at your favorite pizza place, first stop at the taco truck alone.

First drive north on 183 toward your house

First time I saw the fan in your bedroom unmoving.

First day I didn’t cry.

First question I wished I’d asked you

First question I wished you were here to ask.

First night I slept without xanax, almost until dawn.


Jenn Koiter’s poems and essays have appeared in Smartish Pace, Barrelhouse, Bateau, perhappened, Ruminate, Rock & Sling, and other journals. Her first book of poetry, So Much of Everything, is forthcoming from Day Eight. She lives in Washington, DC with three gerbils named Sputnik, Cosmo, and Unit.