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Kirsten Smith

She Got Away and Came Back

One day, I answer the door and there she is,

the ghost of my husbands ex-girlfriend,

his one who got away.

Shes friendly enough, but shes been living in the Other World for so long

shes forgotten how to speak.

She cant say even the simplest of words, like carrot or tonsil. 

One that seems to give her extra trouble is goodbye.

I tell her Harrys at the office, but she comes in anyway,

showing me her pet rock and her passport

stamped with Heaven and Hell, Canada and Puerto Rico.


When shes finally able to talk, I take her to the mall.

At the Orange Julius, she tells me 

about the drawbacks of the dating scene in Purgatory

and the unavailability of a Starbucks in the Seventh Circle.

I tell her what its like being married

and how sorry I am that she died.

I tell her about losing my mother to cancer,

how I met Harry in the grief group,

how at first I thought hed never get over her.

How did he? she asks, depressed but curious.

I tell her what the grief counselor always said,

that grief is like hard candy;

you can only suck on it for so long

before the flavor gives out

or the whole thing just melts away.


When I ask her how long shes staying,

she says she doesnt know,

that no one ever does on trips like these.

Back at the house, she excuses herself for what seems like hours.

I go looking and find her face down in my bed.

I thought Id hate you, she says, crying.

Me, too, I say, and lie next to her.

Her hair is soft and strange

and its all we can do just to lie there,

the afternoon sun splaying through the blinds,

one of us face up and the other face down,

unable to move a muscle for anything

but the here and the now.


Kirsten Smith's poems have appeared in such magazines as The Gettysburg Review, Shenandoah, Prairie Schooner, The Massachusetts Review and Witness, and she has been the recipient of fellowships from the Breadloaf Writer's Conference and The MacDowell Colony. In addition, she co-wrote the feature films 10 Things I Hate About You and Legally Blonde.

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