200 Days After

I used to never cry when characters died
In books. Their deaths were words on pages
That my eyes roamed over. In search
Of conflict. The screams of childless
Mothers seeped through the paper,
Always falling on deaf ears.

Pain used to be a mild acquaintance.
One kept at a distance. It was the feeling
Of skinned knees. Of sidewalks not quite big
Enough for three people. My nights spent
Grounded, eating alone, were a hollow
Loneliness. Tears were sweet then.

Now I devour the trigger warnings on
My favorite shows, the words of decay catching
My eye like gleaming diamonds. I hungrily
Watch for the hopelessness buried within
The stomachs of dead children. What I once
Thought was Pain is merely minor casualty.

Now I sob. When I see mourning. Fictional grief
Is mine; every thought focused on draining
What is written and making it about myself.
About what Pain used to be. My mother
Worried when I began pretending that
I was the only one to ever hurt. To ever mourn.

Now she’s the one pretending I’m not here.
That is a Loneliness heavy with grief and sour tears.

Pain is no longer distant. It is the feeling of cold
Skin. It is the sound of the last phone call at 4:23 p.m.
It is a desk with no kid in it. It is the messy room that
Childless mothers now have to clean. It is the sound
Of my own screams that have only stopped because
I have run out of breath, and I refuse to open my lungs.

The Pain is no longer my acquaintance.
It is my only friend.

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