The Manhattan Review
The Manhattan Review
Established 1980

Archive > Vol. 17 no. 1


Cheryl Moskowitz

Imagining your death


I am now, forgive me, going to imagine your death -
a kind of rehearsal, because if I don’t I may never get through it. 
I will practice by picturing the back of your head
turning away from me. After all
if I could still see your face
this might never have been necessary.
The sun was hotter today than it has been all Spring,
there are signs of life everywhere, and dying.
Only in the last minute
three emergency vehicles wailed past.
It’s 4am and there are people walking around
in t-shirts who didn’t even stop to check
whether it was ambulance or police.
A silver jet, bound for god knows where
just shot over, tail streaming
and somewhere behind me a truck is backing up
several streets away probably,
but the beep, beep, beep
warns everyone of its intention.
Warning or not you’d find this early morning interruption
vulgar, but you are not here.
You are dying. 

I am killing you slowly in my head. 

The cherub, the one we bought together
is still standing in the corner of the terrace.
I used to think it was smiling but now
I can see it looks a little pained and I always
meant to ask you Boy or Girl?
This is something we might have discussed once
even though you used to insist you never had a real opinion
on anything, you would be certain I'm sure
one way or the other whether it is a he
or she holding the fish.
If it wasn’t made of stone I might have even asked
do you think those wings could really work? 

Once you have someone inside you
they say you can finally let them go.
That’s the whole principle, remember?
It’s not stealing, but if someone has been there for you
even a little, oh you know what I mean, don’t make me say it again. 
And you know that jet I said was streaming, and silver? 

Well maybe it was, or maybe not, but now there are lots of them. 
They are coming out of nowhere, like flies.
Sometimes shining and sometimes barely visible
behind the clouds. 
I am in their pathway
and so used to it, now, their comings and goings
I hardly need to go anywhere for myself anymore.
If I stay right here, the world will keep on passing.
I am almost immune to the screams and drones.
The wails. Did you know they have cigarettes
you can switch from regular to menthol
with a single crush and click?
The agony of choosing is over.
Even after I’ve imagined your death
the fact of you never coming or going
ever again, I will have your breath inside of me.
The sound you make when you are asleep
The cold sweat of your arms on a hot night
and the unmistakable feel of your head, the back of it of course
turned away and only a hair’s breadth from my own.