By Sarah Lilius
- There are days I cannot write about knees. Patellas float, tiny islands under the skin, heebie jeebie bones that shift and complain.
- It’s a treasure to have working knees, the bending and straightening, two friends, always together, nervous, they knock about.
- I count steps on the way up, the way down.
- It’s not always the same number when I miss a count, I’m distracted or I’m comfortable.
- The psychiatrist’s office has 16 steps to his door.
- Our home has 14 steps to the top floor, my lucky number.
- Coming down, anxiety, a pale rabbit shaking.
- There are days I can write about knees, lubricated and painless, no storms on the way, the pressure’s good.
- Each number assigned an image, snakes, dirt to drown against, wet leaves, the carpet needs to be vacuumed.
- The bee’s knees, what a darling, she makes it to the bottom.
- Where there are no elevators, it’s stairs again, 1, 2, 3, repeat each number until you’re at the top, an imaginary mountain to place a flag.
- His diagnosis was PTSD, said slight and easy, not a grin on his face, just recognition.
- If I topple, if I make the fall, dramatic mind twist, apocalypse modern and mulled.
- There’s no use praying, no hand of God guides me, I need a handrail.
- Drive me to the door, float me up stairs of wood and polyester fibers, I take the top in my arms like a sister.
My best friend and I, 8 years soft,
hide in a side room
behind a dusty, paisley curtain.
The elderly shuffle
in their black linen.
Mouths not laughing,
eyes not crying.
Tea is not involved
but it feels like there should be
Earl Grey, maybe Chamomile
for our anxiety.
I don’t want to approach
her body. We linger.
ready to move,
to tell us what a stuffy party,
to find the punch bowl
she spiked in the back.
My grandmother, the firecracker,
a flesh statue in full makeup,
her best dress, hint of smile.
I think of that coffin now
underground by the busy road
we don’t visit anymore.
We are memory
and bone, stuck in
the hours that hold us
like cupped hands.
Sarah Lilius lives in Arlington, VA. Some of her previous publications include The Denver Quarterly, Tinderbox, and Flapperhouse. She is the author of What Becomes Within (ELJ Publications, 2014) and The Heart Factory (Black Cat Moon Press, 2016). You can visit her website at sarahlilius.com.
Photograph by David Nilsen, 2016.