Hannah Straub

[A Step Away from Them] and What Remains

We sit in the darkened room asking nothing of
the empty white space but that it remain pure.
And suddenly despite us it blackens.

-Frank O’Hara, “An Image of Leda”

Here’s another second now that yesterday is gone. So far today I have known empty ink cartridges and a house being emptied of its dust. I have not thought yet about the way your voice sounds on the phone, or the color I should paint my nails. Before you know too much–I don’t have any crown jewels, or a tin of mints to make my mouth burn.

Here’s the place between my dots and my “i’s.” I emptied purple sticky notes into a book
with a green cover last night and now there’s an empty corner on my bedside table. I don’t have a harp or a Monopoly game and even if I did I wouldn’t want to play them. I don’t have twenty-three of the twenty-six letters in my first name. I never wanted to learn biology, but maybe that’s selfish. I miss the color orange more than I ever thought I could.

Here’s the air between my gold hoop earrings. I don’t have a yellow button or a bowl of
kiwi. I don’t have painted nails or gold rings. I don’t have a polaroid picture of a yellow sunrise. I don’t have brown hair or blue eyes or a still life of a pineapple because I ate it and I can’t paint. A flurry of red rubber erased the first words I wrote, like tattooed Sharpie butterflied in shower water. Tangled in carpet, the knots in my hair came unspooled. I don’t know a single unruly heart that wouldn’t jump at the chance to know an inch of peace over the full mile.

Here’s the space between my eyelashes. I haven’t let go of a helium-filled balloon in ages.
I don’t believe in submarines but really I just don’t understand them. I miss the way cool water felt on my skin during August before I saw the sign about jellyfish. I don’t like yogurt or picky eaters, I don’t have gold spoons or forks. I cover my eyes in the dark on the off-chance I see something, and play white noise to fall away to.

Here’s breath pushed out between my lips. I don’t have a cardinal rule. I have nothing
invested and tell myself I like it that way. I keep empty bottles of perfume and they don’t lose their smell. I have never tried papaya. I don’t remember what you thought but I remember what you said. I don’t have a beach towel or a scarf or a twin-sized bed. I don’t like to repeat myself when I’m upset but I speak quietly anyway. I will not be who I am when tomorrow comes.

Here’s a hand not being held.

Hannah Straub is a student in Maplewood, New Jersey. She has studied Creative Writing at Interlochen Summer Arts Camp and her work has been published in the Rattle Young Poets Anthology.

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