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By Hannah Nathanson
* Editor's Note: This poem was written in response to Sage Enderton’s poem, “For Mitchell”
You tell me to use your ribs as stairs,
to build a home in the faint hairs on your hands.
I'm too scared that I'll break every bone in your body,
so instead we sit on the porch and kick pebbles with our Nikes.
Occasionally, you let me look through a window,
show me the room where you fought with your mom last night,
or the one where you stopped believing in fairies after you chugged too much holy water.
When I tell you my doors don’t open without creaking,
you offer to pull them apart,
but I want to jam them back in with sledge hammer.
I also want to hold you like you're sculpted by an ancient artist,
but the signs scold not to touch museum exhibits.
Which is to say I’m scared you’ll become allergic to my shedding skin,
the same way you can no longer stand the scent of christmas trees.
I tuck your hair behind your ears.
You tell me that the TV in your family room plays your favorite memories on repeat,
and I'm afraid that if we watch it together once I leave you'll want to change the channel.
If I go inside, I’ll tread so much dirt along the floorboards
you’ll want to crack the hardwood once I slam the door.
So we are back to drowning in sodapop on the stoop
and for just a moment we are teenagers
on the porch of your parent’s house,
examining each other’s elbows and eye colors and other exterior designs.
You throw rocks and chip away at my windowsill,
breaking glass to offer me fresh air in exchange for safety.
When I mention my basement is empty,
you say we should bring the beaten up TV from your attic there
and spend the day in darkness watching movies.
I say no because I know I will leave you and when I do I don’t want your favorite movies to be ruined.
I say no because I’m scared of the cobwebs and spider-bites hiding in the corners.
I say no because my basement really means my chest cavity.
You tear down all the signs but the museum art stays pristine.
You plead that you will crumble, like it’s a prayer and you’re begging now.
When it was warmer, we would swim in your backyard.
Now it's cool enough to sit in the far back and look at the stars,
but we don't. Instead we go for a walk and complain
about how icy the air feels when it meets our breath.