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Christine Taylor

“The Agony of Omayra Sanchez”: In a Magazine

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Her eyes are what I can’t forget.
Wherever I look, that girl watches.

No white left in her eyes, only a
blackness that invites the photograph.

The volcano erupted, and the man on
the radio said to stay inside.

A lahar swallowed the family’s house,
her father and aunt drowned inside.

Pinned between concrete walls
and caught in her aunt’s embrace,

the girl clings to a single wooden beam,
the roof below clings to her.

She’s up to her neck in muddy water
that bubbles on the surface.

Her hair is curly like mine.
I think she is pretty.

Her wrinkled hands, white like a dead
fish floating in a pond,

seem like they are beckoning.
She will be dead soon too.

I catch myself scratching my hands
to see if the flesh stays firm

or tears like carrion.
I can’t stand up.

The dog barks at a car in the driveway,
the storm door opens, and shuts.


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This is our family portrait:

Mommy sits on a low
fold-up chair in the kitchen,
we’re perched on her lap.

Paula’s not looking, her finger
jammed in her mouth, Mommy
holds her leg tight.

A stuffed white lamb
flops in my hand.
I am waving.

Green and yellow linoleum,
a sequin-studded cat magnet
on the brown Frigidaire.

Yarn ribbons try to bind our curls,
Mommy had long hair back then.
In the corner, a smudged fingerprint.

You took that picture
on Paula’s second birthday, the date
printed in thin blue ink,

when we were four.

If a Tree Falls in the Forest

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Matthew’s mother has sent him
  out back to get a switch again.

He staggers to the trees
  near the garage,

pulls a young branch,
  picks off twigs and leaves,

stares at the slender whip.
  He makes the long walk

down the driveway to the house,
  feebly waves when he passes.

I wave back. I go inside.
  If I can’t hear him scream,

does his whipping exist?
  I play with paper dolls,

fold the tabs of two-dimensional
  dresses over flat bodies.

Imagine the quiet.
  I don’t see Matthew for the rest
of the day, or the next.
  Through an open window, I hear

his mother banging pots on the stove.
  Matthew brings out the garbage,

refuses a game of kickball that we play
  until the streetlights shine.

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