In my dreams she is alive again,
but death has made her younger.
No longer eighteen, she toddles
on a windowsill, a moldy, lukewarm child.
I don’t care; I’ll raise her again,
this time to womanhood. She is a fire
in the nucleus of a cell, joined to my cell
and her mother’s in an organism aflame with life.
I reteach her the word “gargoyle,”
calm her when she says, “Cherry
is troubling Martha.” We hold each other,
tumbling slowly through the air,
her dress dark blue with stars.
She talks of college, and I say, “Yes, you have
a future now.” High up in what was her dorm room,
iron bars block the window so she will never jump
out again. I rope her to me and carry her
in her purple parka on the path to the King and Queen
of the Fairies, who can make her real in life as well
as dreams. But she is heavy and the rope slips
loose. The coat is empty in my hands.
Waking, I know Martha has no future.
There was only the one chance,
and it is gone forever.
George Ochoa’s poetry has appeared in Chicago Literary Review. His short stories have been published in North American Review, Absinthe Literary Review, Eureka Literary Magazine, Bangalore Review, Eunoia Review, and Spider. His essays have appeared in Mad in America and the Catholic Worker. He is the author or coauthor of 35 nonfiction books, including the New York Public Library’s Book of Answers. He received his BA from Columbia University and his MA in English from the University of Chicago. He is the senior director of communications at a Manhattan nonprofit.
Artwork: Brooke Shaden