What Will Happen


There will be in your life an absence so big
you will not believe it. You will say Show me
the body, and they will not show you the body.
You will wear the only black clothes you own
and they will collect what you forgot
drifts daily around you: motes of pale
dust, the day’s heat, a strand of her hair.
You will not touch the mug left on the side table,
ruby seal of her lips’ whorls and creases, the wet ring
beneath it a zero, a gaping mouth. You will go to the grave
and it will be an ordinary hole, it will terrify you.
You will not sleep, or you will sleep
beyond waking so it resembles a minor death. You will forget
it is Tuesday, Wednesday, and one day walking
from one room to another, you will realize
a week has passed since last her breath
shook loose. This will destroy you
in that it has not destroyed you.
You will inflict small injuries on yourself
and survive them. You will find
tiny stalactites of salt clung to
your lashes and her handwriting on the backs
of bank statements. You will receive
white chrysanthemums and platters of lasagna.
You will receive guests and you will not speak
of the dead, you will act as if this were a surprise
party and she has not yet arrived. You will keep her
shoes because she will need them when she comes back
from swimming in blue ether; you will wear her
thick sweaters because you will always be cold.
When someone asks you how long you plan to hold on
to the loss of her, you will respond, Forever, meaning never,
grief a rope slithering through your raw fingers. You will say
you have stopped believing in God, but you will pray.
You will say oh God, why God, God please to disrupt
the silence which lingers. Time will fold over you
its lean shadows and fresh light. The moon will swallow
itself then emerge again slowly. You will
one day wake and no longer remember
her voice. You will recall her
touch as something else: morning sun
draped across your thighs, the cat’s tail
brushed against you in passing. You will catch
the smell of her, fleeting, on a subway,
and you will continue on to your destination
without weeping. Someone will tell you a joke
and for the first time in months a laugh will unlatch
from your throat. You will no longer feel betrayed
by the joy or good fortune of others. You will regard again
the flowers budding by the sidewalk and not resent them
their burgeoning life. One day you will eat tomatoes
like she taught you and you will teach this to someone else
you will learn to love, juice dribbling down your chins. You will take the salt
in your hand and shake it onto the fruit’s raw wound.
Like this, you’ll say, raising the globe to your lips. Like this.


originally published in Indiana Review

Leila Chatti

—2nd Place Winner of the 2019 Previously Published Prize—

Leila Chatti is a Tunisian-American poet and author of Deluge, forthcoming from Copper Canyon Press in 2020, and the chapbooks Ebb (Akashic Books, 2018) and Tunsiya/Amrikiya, the 2017 Editors' Selection from Bull City Press. She is the recipient of scholarships from the Tin House Writers’ Workshop, The Frost Place, and the Key West Literary Seminar, grants from the Barbara Deming Memorial Fund and the Helene Wurlitzer Foundation, and fellowships from the Fine Arts Work Center in Provincetown, the Wisconsin Institute for Creative Writing, and Cleveland State University, where she is the inaugural Anisfield-Wolf Fellow in Publishing and Writing. Her poems appear in Ploughshares, Tin House, American Poetry Review, and elsewhere.