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The Funeral House

(learning what to do with my hands and your condolences)

By Zeynep Bayirtepe

Art by Raegan Boettcher


i have crosses on the calendar for each confession

i burn the pages like sage, inhale the incense, make a wish

breath out smoke, choke on words, hold onto the smells

i wet the ashes and mold them into a body

i kiss the earth that raised you

i build a tomb and sleep with my socks on

claw marks on the calendar i will wait for you

i am the poet in a warzone

nothing to my name except for an enchanting elegy

i wait at home with the children

i promise them you will be back

i feast on a goodnight

i make everything about you

start every line with an overbearing i


swallowing blood and spitting soil

i don’t know how to live

with a million pairs of loving eyes on me

they call me their violet, beloved

throw me a birthday party everyday i choose to stay

i pluck out petals to get a hold of your mind

i assure them i don’t have a knife

savor a pair of safety scissors

i shall not disappoint and i shall not forget

my evil butterfly, i will clip your wings and hang them dry

i will suck the special out of you and season it with spite

a dial of poison to cherish and remember

i know now why maddening women take to pen and ink and blood

when your body is falling apart every word might be your last

and there is nothing to do but to act everything out

make sure you go out screaming, kicking, honest

i cuss out the audience they knock at my door

chew out their condolences and cold meals

i spit on your grave, you grow flowers in spite of me

your flowers i won’t forgive

your flowers i can’t forget


you must change your life, the poet cries

as i gaze into the stolen eyes of apollo

friends as fresh as scars, archaic as heartbreak

i paint my hands black, nails and lips blue

touch your face, avert my gaze

there is a me-shaped hole in the love i build

a sunburn shade of shame that i hide in the shadows

if i bit my tongue off and fed it to the cats

if i was cooler, crueler, colder, calmer

if i could be fixed, i would

pluck my eyes out and play pretend

and keep your twisted love pressed between pages

breathe life into it until i’m nothing but labor and dust


my sheets smell only of me and

the girl that loves me dries my tears off of me, tenderly,

like my mother does in her drunken dreams

and doesn’t ask for the time i wasted back

my sick sleep of relief gets captured by dreams of grief

and the guilt of the days i neglect her for you

the beautiful days i count down for nothing have moth bites in them,

a million you-shaped holes

i carve a monastery into shame and gild it with gold

try to melt my ice over a burning bridge

pray for wings and kiss the sun

i fall (i fall) but i never crash

i go out clean, without evidence

not the porcelain doll i should have been

no shrapnels for you to kiss and put together

with the blood on your lips

you would sign love letters to foreign lands

they see you with your new colors blank eyes fresh tattoos

and i become the punchline to a heartbeat i can sing along to

what they call mourning i polish and pray to every morning


and i am a smiling widow

as i vigilantly watch the earth satiate its thirst

with the tongues you used to puncture

black drips off of my lashes and becomes a night

where the moon no longer is a broken plate

but a mirror, a mutilation of the sun, proof of life

i loved you and you are dead

i strike a match and take down love letters, keep them in order

i burn the funeral house down

to call my memories my own and give us peace

i kiss my fickle heart with flaming lips

scare the worms out, breathe in and out

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