“An Afterlife” by Robyn Campbell

An Afterlife

When you asked in passing if I still
think about him, I lied. It was
easier than explaining myself.
Mostly his face comes
in flashes that stop me quick
in my tracks, his eyes blue-black
as caves.

I consider his death, gnaw
on the word until it is flavorless.
They hung him, you know that.
For shame’s sake they
tied him to a tree like a criminal.
You say a man chooses
his own fate. Of women, you
say very little.

You two are nothing alike.

You lingered on the other
side of an ocean, sent your name
before you like a fog
to follow me. It was easy.
Our love was contractual,
a practicality I craved and
kept close in an unsteady
foreign land.

So I am sorry that I
thought of leaving you before
your boots had hit the ground.
Words, spoken right, have
a weight, and for weeks I
pulled his along on my back like an ox would.

But you arrived and I was
happy and spoke my peace:
a gentle rejection of his love, a
careful pin to the heart. What
else could I have done? That
part you understood—
my submission to logic.

Guilt made him mythic; everything
he was turned bronze.

Now we live
by the river that named him
and yet, my darling, you wonder
where my mind goes.
Most days I shuck corn, scale
fish, skin rabbits, peel back their
layers in search of something
deeper, gold flecks in
the belly, some comfort.
A truth laid plain in the bones.

me (1)

Robyn Campbell is a Philadelphia-based poet and editor of Semiperfect Press. Her work has appeared in journals such as Voicemail PoemsStirring, and Apiary, among others, and is forthcoming in 1932 Quarterly. She is a drummer and avid hiker, and her first chapbook, “Bloom Where You,” is available now. You can learn more about her at www.robynjcampbell.com.

Featured Image by Jakob Owens

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