Bailey spent the whole fall when I was five
working on her princess costume,
her princess walk,
her princess talk.
The day before Halloween
it occurred to Gram
that I didn’t have a costume.
She asked: What do you want to be?
I looked at the dress hanging in the closet
like a cloud,
at the gold crown on the chair.
Nothing, I told her.
Then Bailey cried: I know!
She can be the pea.
We’ll be Princess and the Pea!
Gram: Sweet pea will be a pea!
Bailey twirled around the room.
I thought okay, fine,
I’ll be the pea,
peas are kind of cute.
Gram mixed her greens,
but came up with a muddy one,
not the bright sprite of a green I’d imagined.
At the first house we went to,
the lady who answered the door said: Oh my!
What a beautiful princess
and what are you, honey, a pebble?
(Never found on a piece of paper caught in a fence high on the ridge)
The morning I went to school
after Bailey died,
I used her shampoo,
I went through her drawers
for underwear, bra, socks,
her closet for the blue shirt
she’d worn the day she died.
I put her clothes on in front of the mirror,
listening to her favorite band.
Then I applied her lipstick,
dabbed her perfume on my neck.
This is how I made it out the door,
down the road,
and through the doors of Clover High.
But mixed in with all the heartbreak
was this terrible shameful thing:
I felt special
for the first time,
like I was the one
(Never found under a stone in Gram’s garden)
We’d burst through the front door
with the river still on us.
Gram saying: One of these days I’m going to paint you girls,
the way you look when you come back from the river,
the way you girls look like I don’t know what,
sunny summer girls, swimming fish girls,
rushing river girls,
the way you look like I don’t know what girls.
(Never found on a crumpled up piece of staff paper on the path to the Rain River)
It remains night for weeks,
the trees shuffle off to other towns,
birds retire their wings,
flowers their petals.
I can’t read
because all the words fall off the page.
I’m three feet beside myself, over there.
I keep falling down his body.
I keep falling.
There is nowhere to put grief.
I try to find a safe place,
but no such thing.
(Never discovered written on the wall of Lennie’s closet)
(Never discovered written on a desk in the music room, Clover High)
I don’t understand
why he comes here,
why he thinks
this sad grave
of a house
is a place
to make music.
(Never found on a candy wrapper blowing down Main Street)
(Never found on a to-go coffee cup in the Walker kitchen trash can)