Elegy for a Lost Year

After “Elegy with Sympathy” by Emily Skaja


For the dust-lined pantry. For the empty doormat.  For the sparrows nesting under my car that won’t stop chirping when I scowl at them, Not this time. For the tossed backpacks, faint with the smell of pencil lead and orange peels, for how long we’re here, memorialized in a sea of china plates and dirty dishes. Can we kiss over the phone is the start of a text I’m sending you. Timestamp two days ago. The morning dew is one part Lysol, two parts Purell. I’m not allowed to open doors. It’s an uphill battle; better safe than sorry; every dark cloud has a silver lining are the sayings, but I haven’t heard the plan. I learned early that a full room meant safety. A full church meant pity. My only complaint with the birdsong outside is I can’t tell if it’s for love or prayer. Hymn as the woodpecker on the dead oak tree. Holy water as the garden hose. For the spider silk dresses and waxy lipsticks hissing from my bathroom drawers like sirens. You always said All poems are about love on the phone—then what about this one? What if I say that it’s the house’s fault? That the house wants to take itself back? Damp footprints lead me to each new task—food, phone, food, computer, bed—and gashes in the drywall ooze dust, clamor, tremble. We are so very good, here. We promise. Sometimes, we even get on our knees.




Image Credit: Birds, Xie Zhiliu / The Met.

About the author

Charlotte Hughes is a high school junior from Columbia, South Carolina. She has attended the Iowa Young Writerʻs Studio and is a reader for PANK and Polyphony Lit. Her poetry can be found in Waxwing, PANK, and The Raleigh Review, and has been honored by The Kenyon Review, Princeton University, and The UK Poetry Society, among others.

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