After We Leave This Place, All That’s Left Are Artifacts

“Butterfly”

“Mommy…mmm…and baby”

“Baby Felix!”

“Mmm…what’s this?”

“Flower, I touch?”

“I color for Felix”

“Felix and mommy”

“Felix and Isla”

“Oh no. Monster!”

“Moon”

You are

vanishing

A figment of her imagination

A story she heard once in a repressed memory

A life she’ll never remember living

A trauma she’ll unearth with a therapist in her 30s

A death she’ll never remember experiencing

(After all, she’s only two)

You are

A picture in a locket around my neck

A collection of pictures on my phone, in a book, and on the walls

You are

A book I never wanted to write but know now that I must

(Will you help me?)

You are

Condolence cards and a blue hospital toothbrush labeled “Felix’s first hairbrush”

And vaseline stained clothes

And the words on this page

And the tears in these veins

You live

On top of a green sideboard from IKEA

The one daddy built all by himself

That one day

We drove through Boston, the saddest city in the Northeast

Because that’s where you slept for 40 nights without me

You’re inside

A ceramic jar with your name carved on the front

The one Madison sealed

That one day

She was wearing black; how fitting

You’re attached

To your sister’s gold-framed mirror

We say goodnight at 7 o’clock on the dot

(Can you hear us?)

You’re framed

On my bedroom wall, underneath the “raise hell, kid” banner that used to hang in your room

And I wonder if you’re there and, more importantly, if you’re having fun

(Is it hot?)

You are

The background of my phone and the foreground of my mind

You are

The surprise baby born five days before my birthday

And the one who left me on a cold afternoon in mid-March that very same year

You are

A signed death certificate in a decorative box underneath my bed

You’re gone,

and I’m still here

(How? And what the hell am I supposed to do now?)

You’re gone,

and now you’re just a picture I look at on my wall