Dear Elizabeth Smart

Contest, Poetry

Runner-up in the 2019 Ada Limón Autumn Poetry Contest

I read in a book review that you wrote My Story with a ghost. / Days after hearing your voice, / I am haunted and frantically write you / in a pocket notebook, afraid of forgetting.

Poetry by Dani DiCenzo

Dear Elizabeth Smart,
I read in a book review that you wrote My Story with a ghost.
Days after hearing your voice,
I am haunted and frantically write you
in a pocket notebook, afraid of forgetting.
My knees are folded to my chest; I can’t stop rocking,
can’t cling to you steadfastly enough
from the seat of my car on the way to the animal clinic.
The tree caps ascend beyond 
the guardrails, ashen and turning
in the wind and sun; the world, all ugly,
until I catch sight of my sick dog
in the side mirror, the rush of wind
through the window slicking back
her fur and tongue. She has not
eaten in days, has been
wandering around the house,
whimpering in the only language
she knows, but I am happy to believe
she is happy in this moment,
enjoying such a small thing
after a slew of bad days—
Is this how it was for you?
What did I come here to say—
I have never felt so afraid while writing a poem.
In your interview, you laughed. In my mind, a smile
peeked out, a need for politeness alongside such fear.
There is no detaching us from ourselves, Elizabeth.
Tell me I’m wrong, if I’m wrong. Tell me
I won’t understand, even if I write to you my whole life.
Tell me I’m not safe, or I’ll worry.
I came here to say what’s hard to say—
there is still fear without God, or dogs, or mothers.
There is no Elizabeth, no me to rush to cling to,
if we are alone. When I am beside you, I am myself.
My fear, Elizabeth, when you are nowhere.

Dani DiCenzo is a poet and educator living off the coast of Georgia. You can find her work in Interim magazine and Fjords Review.

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