Malarial Dreams (for my former partner upon his passing yesterday) by Heather Bourbeau

Malarial Dreams (for my former partner upon his passing yesterday)

I first said I love you in the highlands of Madagascar, over the phone—
a mix of cowardice and bravery to be so vulnerable, so far away.

It took 10,000 miles and one week alone for me to surrender.
You had led the charge three months before.

I came home to your open arms, our legs wrapped and hungry, our mouths
wanting to take and spill more than was possible at one time.

Today I brushed my teeth without thinking about your death. I went outside,
felt my shoulders loosen with the sun. I got my lunch and made plans.

While walking home, I cried and stifled sobs at the memory of your face
from the time of us. Not the bloat of a man older and settled and unknown.

This afternoon, I bought lip balm and Kleenex forgetting the shock, the loss.
I worked for hours and felt the weight lift from my lingering flu.

I edited my latest story, worried about quality, verb tenses. I marveled at my ability
to breathe through both nostrils, deeply, without coughing, and drank tea.

And when meeting with friends, I held that breath, closed eyes, and flashed
through all the sweetness between us I had forgotten over the years.

I wish your children well. I wish your brother well. I wish I knew how to mourn
someone I hadn’t spoken to in years but wanted to still be in this world.

Tonight I will go to sleep to the quick patter of film noir or the rich language
of poets laureate. I will curl into my side of a bed I do not share.
And I will sweat out my sorrow in the malarial dreams of an old love.

by Heather Bourbeau

Editor’s Note: The rich imagery of this poem drives the narrative through the speaker’s grief, allowing the reader to slowly experience all the moments in between as the emotion slowly matures into nostalgia.

One thought on “Malarial Dreams (for my former partner upon his passing yesterday) by Heather Bourbeau

  1. I like the detail of how the speaker carried on with the daily tasks of her life. I’ve been writing grief poems for over a year now, following the loss of my beloved sister. It’s fascinating to see how others portray their grief and gives me new directions and ideas for my poems. Thank you.


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