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The On Being Project

WHEREAS: An Excerpt

WHEREAS I heard a noise I thought was a sneeze. At the breakfast table pushing eggs around my plate I wondered if he liked my cooking, thought about what to talk about. He pinched his fingers to the bridge of his nose, squeezed his eyes. He wiped. I often say he was a terrible drinker when I was a child I’m not afraid to say it because he’s different now: sober, attentive, showered, eating. But in my childhood when things were different I rolled onto my side, my hands together as if to pray, locked between knees. When things were different I lay there for long hours, my face to the wall, blank. My eyes left me, my soldiers, my two scouts to the unseen. And because language is the immaterial I never could speak about the missing so perhaps I cried for the invisible, what I could not see, doubly. What is it to wish for the absence of nothing? There at the breakfast table as an adult, wondering what to talk about if he liked my cooking, pushing the invisible to the plate’s edge I looked up to see he hadn’t sneezed, he was crying. I’d never heard him cry, didn’t recognize the symptoms. I turned to him when I heard him say I’m sorry I wasn’t there sorry for many things / like that / curative voicing / an opened bundle / or medicine / or birthday wishing / my hand to his shoulder / it’s okay I said it’s over now I meant it / because of our faces blankly / because of a lifelong stare down / because of centuries in sorry;


An excerpt from “WHEREAS Statements” from WHEREAS, page 65. Copyright © 2017 by Layli Long Soldier. Reproduced with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

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