Creative Spotlight: “Dear Lily” by Claire Seymour

This week, the Miscellany is proud to present a poem by Claire Seymour (’20)! Claire is an English major and Women’s and Gender Studies/Creative Writing minor currently abroad on the WGST Europe program. She’s a native of Brooklyn, NY, and her favorite books are The Round House by Louise Erdich and Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff. Thanks so much for sharing your work with us, Claire!

Dear Lily

I think everything changed when you showed up drunk
at the school dance, eyes cloudy, dress slipping down your chest.
We are so many worlds away from eighth grade,
when we dyed your hair blue in your kitchen sink,
Lily, and now, you are grinning at me as you
fumble for your keys in the dim gaslight outside
of your apartment. It’s two in the morning, Lily,
and it’s so cold I think the Hudson River could
freeze over and there is lipstick smeared across your chin.
You’re floundering in the silver-lit entry, hips curved
like fish hooks, laughter drenched with cocktails
and you whisper-shout goodnight, vanishing around the corner.
We are sixteen and we are best friends.

I can imagine you that night in January, in the back of the taxi,
river salt in your hair, city lights blurring like stars,
winter reaching down your throat and muffling
the scream caught deep in your mouth. Lily,
I will never forget the doorbell ringing over and over
like church bells, deep into the night, my neighborhood
streets slick with rainfall, the beer spilled down your shirt,
a bouquet of bruises coloring your thighs. Lily,
I was so afraid for you. We drank lemon tea,
and I wiped the tears from your soft cheeks and thought
about the beauty of your summery eyelashes, your lips,
as soft as lamp light, remembered the days
before we learned to say pretty things, before
something shuddered and blew out the fires lit in our chests.

We are swinging from your fire escape onto solid ground.
We are in a dark bedroom in a gutted house and I feel a hand
on my waist and I scream no. It’s October and we’re sitting
on the concrete at two in the morning too drunk to go home
and a man in a blue hoodie yells, “come on ladies smile
you’re both alive!” and you weep into my shoulder.
Somewhere nearby, a gun goes off. There is always someone
else awake, in this city. We duck into an alley to avoid
police lights. I feel like you are dragging me through the gates,
Lily. There are bus stops and subways and taxis.
There is so much running. There are drinks
and fake IDs and shadowy basements.
There is so much numbing.

I wish I could lock you in place at fourteen,
when we talked in southern accents for a straight hour
in your purple bedroom with the soccer trophies.
I want to help you, Lily, but you’re fucking me up,
you’re breaking my heart with your thin shadow and
your ghosts. You wanted to bathe in fire, Lily;
you wanted to dance with deathlessness.

You understand, right Lily?
You understand how things just happen–
how cars swerve and ribs break;
how one girl screams in the back of a taxi
and no one hears a thing. You understand
how two girls grow listless, wondering
if they have already passed their prime.

I am watching you disappear around the corner.
Life is so full of vanishing acts but I don’t think
you’ll ever fall away
You know what I mean?

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