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"Coda of a Girl" by Leslie Cairns

I almost raked my hands, again, down my throat, searching for the miasma of the college story love poems I almost wrote. I inched myself on the treadmill, ran three miles while my friend

Talked to me in a flurry of alcoves, in daughters gone missing–

How the world was ending –

How there was our fancy friend, and there was us–

And, I pretended not to cry; I just kept running.

There’s a song without the words,

The notes clear but the hollows of the singer in the background, muted in manatee spirals, slow and loafing. And I realize that I want to fill in the blanks; I want to know what the future holds; I want to know if I can talk to my deceased grandmother again, somewhere along the meadow

Of where we land, when we don’t know where we’re going.

I almost panicked about what will be lost,

All the lost moments, the jobs I left, the poems I almost wrote but fluttered asleep

To comedy instead. The pinch near my brain that I hope is fine,

The way there are diagnoses and mad women and bills gone unpaid–

& I read on reddit that means I’m a deadbeat,

& so I contemplate dying my hair lilac,

Hoping I’ll sink in the midnight hours between rushing

And worrying.

& I almost hold myself closer when this happens: when the world spins tighter and tighter to the last note–

And, I don’t know if it’s going to be flat,

Or ruin everything.

Or, hold us steady, wanting to rise to our feet,

Again. Will I end in a standing applause?

Will I end with a monotone note at the end?

Will I end with a familiar chorus

Like the faces of your favorite children

That you hope never ends, but you know the last note

And when it’s coming?

I wait for the ending. I grip my knuckles tighter, hoping it’s a fluke, that the underbelly of ending won’t come for me, and won’t come when I’m standing. Fists clenched, worried

About the goodbyes I wanted to say to you, plain. I wait for the note that could be a middle C; it could be a low base;

It could touch high parts, where the fingers almost leave the ribcage of the piano. The note could bleat openly, hoping it lulls you to sleep.

I don’t want to ruin, don’t want to spoil–

Don’t tell me the note that will stay with me,

The rose that I hold in my hands, as the blood-red petals live longer

Than I do.

This piece is about imagining what last note would be played on your last day. What would it look like? Leslie Cairns has a recently released chapbook, titled 'The Food is the Fodder' through Bottlecap Press. Find her on Twitter.

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