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The Dead Still Live Within Us

There is a shadow that has hovered since I can remember, 

with edges always blurred, made up of indistinct lines. 

Shifting from long to short, round to square, light to dark. 

Its exact shape elusive to me as no memory exists. 


At least not a shape that I could confirm with any record. 

I listened and double-checked the directions. 

Nothing clarified how I was to remember, 

how I was to absorb any influence. 


It’s impossible to grasp the transparency of the unfamiliar. 

The border of the puzzle put perfectly together, 

but all the other pieces distorted with spilt water. 

The lack of one’s existence enough to alter everyone. 


I know a name: Lucinda. 

It is a shared name. 

My youthful mouth speaks Lucy, while the elders speak Cindy. 

Two separate people, yet one meant to honor the other. 


I know the place held in the order: number one. 

The oldest of sixteen children; 

a girl, a daughter, a big sister, a woman. 

A respected authority figure amongst the other fifteen. 


I know what earned the granted respect: a sandal. 

One that could be wielded at a moment’s notice. 

Misbehavior forced the sandal to flick into the air. 

Caught and thrown without hesitation and with precision. 


I know a career path: special education. 

Supposedly, a memorial rock sits out front the school taught at. 

A blind belief that it’s true even without seeing the evidence. 

Praised by strangers for her kind, patient soul. 


I know one passion possessed: shopping. 

Bargain shopping for she had a nose for deals. 

Told she would have made me stylish without spending a dime. 

Spoiled on a budget, but I would have been spoiled, nonetheless. 


I know a cause of death: brain aneurysm. 

Supposedly, she had been fine—then she wasn’t. 

The family hastily called home. 

My grandfather cried as his heart broke. 


This is what I know, but never enough to be more than a re-memory. 

A presence crafted to be larger than life. 

Someone who lingered long past her final day,  

yet impossible to really know for those of us too young. 


An old, single image hangs in a frame on the wall of pictures. 

The only clue to her existence that is hard and physical. 

It attempts to sculpt the hovering shadow  

into the one who didn’t have a choice in leaving.  


She must have smiled—maybe my smile is hers. 

She must have given great hugs—would I have liked them? 

She must have loved them—I hope she would have loved me. 

She must have been real—her presence has always been felt. 

  • Emily Wolff is in her final semester of graduate school finishing her MA in Literature. Once she finishes her MA, she plans to go on to receive a PhD in English and an MFA in Creative Writing. Emily tends to use poetry to explore complex emotions that come from her personal experiences. She finds it to be a therapeutic way of expressing herself with the hopes of others being able to relate as well. 

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