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Not Dead

“I know dead people, and you are not dead.” ~ Franz Wright, Walking to Martha’s Vineyard

You can’t be dead. Who talks to dead people?
Only the crazy, and I’m not crazy just because
I tell you good morning, and good night,
and things in between, like what I’m cooking
for lunch and how the kids are doing.   

You can’t be dead. Who touches dead people
who are buried? Only crazy people try, and I’m 
not crazy even though every time I pass by the desk 
where you spent your days I stroke the air 
where your head should be, lean in for a kiss.  

I’m sure you’re not dead, because after all 
if you were really dead you’d be in the past tense, 
not the present. Missing you is just proof
that you’re somewhere else, maybe on a trip 
that’s gone on too damn long, and that doesn’t  

mean that you’re gone.  I can still dial
your number and I do. And just because 
you don’t answer means nothing except that
you’re busy or your battery died. Because 
if you were actually dead it would be obvious   

and I’d have moved on by now, just like everyone 
keeps insisting I should. I wouldn’t see your form 
on the stairs like a hologram, or hear you call me
from the other room. I wouldn’t feel you next to me 
in bed, so present I can feel your warmth radiating

into the space between our bodies. I wouldn’t hear
you breathing. And if you’re not beside me in bed, 
it’s just because you’re having a bad night 
and you decided to sleep on the sofa,
and I don’t  want to bother you so I won’t go check.   

It’s true most of the time I’m on a planet of pain 
as far away from normal life as Pluto, or farther,
but then I realize  that this is foolish: why hurt 
so much when you haven’t actually died? 
I no longer light the lamp by your picture  

because that’s what we do for dead people, 
and you’re not dead. Even on the 31st, your
memorial-in-a-pandemic, you still won’t be dead:
your picture will be a stand-in for the real you, 
the koliva to remember someone else,  

your grave a terrible mistake. No slab of granite 
could contain you. I’ll go down to the beach 
to search for you in the wind and waves instead, 
or on the other side of the cliffs. I’ll even brave 
that path up the hillside we didn’t climb for years   

to see if I can find you. Maybe you just needed one 
more challenge, or you wanted to see the sea 
rom up high again, those tranquil blues, those waves 
like a lacework of foam, a whisper of your promise 
that we’d always be together—written on water.   

Lisa Suhair Majaj is author of Geographies of Light (Del Sol Press). Her poetry has been translated into Arabic, Greek, and Hebrew. Her poems appeared in the exhibit Aftermath: The Fallout of War (Harn Museum of Art, 2016). She lives in Cyprus, the homeland of her late husband, Andreas Alexandrou. 

Connect with Lisa!
Facebook as Lisa Suhair Majaj 
Twitter @lmajaj
Instagram lisasuhairmajaj

3 comment on “Not Dead

  • Myriam Hamdallah
    January 31, 2021 | 2:28 am

    This is so touching. Maybe I’ll never truly understand how you feel but this is a window that gives me some insight.

  • Sarah
    March 25, 2021 | 11:50 pm

    That is truly beautiful.

  • Eileen Clinton
    April 20, 2021 | 8:33 pm

    Beautiful. It touched my soul. I could relate to much of what you described.

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