Laura Sobbott Ross
I’d heard about you before you became
my daughter’s friend at the Christian school.
You were once the girl, buoyant and uncombed,
with just a can of soup at the lunch table
and no way to open it, a name on a list
of a family asking for Christmas presents,
a wicked chant honed to the jump rope’s beat.
I snickered at your clever nicknames for the pious,
the cartoon of our pastor blah-blah-blahing,
and yet, I’d wanted to complain to the same ones
about your influence on my daughter.
The two of you flipping your plaid bible skirts
at the adolescent boys playing soccer; a creed
shivering down the spine of their spiral notebooks,
the corners of their pages licked damp with turning;
hearts and flowers sketched in the margins of yours.
The last time I saw you, you’d thrown yourself
fully clothed into a swimming pool amid
indignant snowbirds in a hotel downtown
and were led away dripping, a raspy sea siren.
You’d had babies early, lost them in a ruling,
wandered cowlicked, inked, and dimpled
down the highway toward Daytona
where you died, a stripper living in a van.
The final photo you posted was of a manakin
in white fishnets and a wolf mask, a macabre
piece of art meant to affront what terrified you.
At least that was the last thing you wrote.
A red jellyfish scribbled where the heart would be,
skirted in a current of smarting veins.
A third eye vortexed in onyx
across the flat plane of the plastic belly.
I wish I could have told you that
sometimes, Hannah, if we are just a body,
not somebody, just a body, maybe it doesn’t hurt
so much. That giddy smile of yours studded
in hard spangles, the lobes of your ears opened
wide as the well of a spoon. I wish I could have
taken you in, Hannah, pushed you skyward
on the tire swing in our cul-de-sac, filled your
pockets with all the things girls should have—
birthstone charms and candy karmas and lullabies.
I wish I could have fanned that hard spark in you
into something more than what would consume
you. Your skin, a span of moonlight.
Stars lashing themselves against the metal room
of your van. Earth’s infinite spin, warm and
quaking the palm fronds like a loose spirit.
photo credit: Harry Rajchgot, 04-2020