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  • Writer's pictureLammergeier Staff

The Importance of Being, A Tragedy in Two Last Acts | Shana Ross

for M

I. Between Intubation and The End

Mortality is a tech bro

on the lowest rung.

He’s so sure he’s

upward bound

he’ll fight fierce as ice –

all trickle into cracks,

crumbling the earth

with expansion, same

as sear to the touch –

to preserve the ladder.

Mortality has been shit on

for so long. He has stayed

meek for self-preservation

in the presence of bigger teeth.

No one weighs their hungers

against their ambitions but

he is ravenous. Mortality

goes to leadership workshops

says his biggest goal is to learn

to be brutally honest

with everyone. Mortality is

sure he’s the victim here.

Mortality wants to be a god,

not for benevolence or power,

but how easy it is to tally

& quantify worshippers.

What they will sacrifice

& grieve. Mortality can’t

untangle torment and love.

If I am full of rage & leaking

tears, it’s because I learned

to make your terrible

pumpkin muffins just so,

so they could outlive you.

Cinnamon, no nutmeg.

Too little butter for the crumb.

What if your son refuses

to eat so long out of grief

he forgets how they are

supposed to taste? Well,

Mortality got his, so fuck you.

II. Survivor’s Guilt

The more people you

lose in this life the more

your waking is a daily

apology for telling such

a thin and stretched out

story, all these threads

missing. How lush

& oversaturated the rug

must be in the parlor, the next

room over, no way to lay

a foot on the pile. I sat

with some bees who

reminded me an entire life

can leave less than a teaspoon

of honey. I do my chores

in the kitchen, wiping

down the granite a second

time with a new rag. The shine

on the counters is garish

but that’s just how

the afternoon light happens

in this house. M is finishing

her dying, two timezones

away. When I moved away

a month ago, we said

our goodbyes. Over the phone.

She didn’t say what

she knew, but I knew it

too. We were not face to face

when I said. I loved

being young with you.

I tied out all my loose

ends and left. She thought

she would have more time.

The past tense can be

a blade that opens

a wound that won’t be felt

until the wet drops hit

your skin, the liquid of your

interrupted pulse spilling after

the shock fades.

Shana Ross is a recent transplant to Edmonton, Alberta and Treaty Six Territory. Qui transtulit sustinet. Her work has recently appeared in Cutbank Literary Journal, Laurel Review, Gigantic Sequins, Meetinghouse Magazine and more. She is the winner of the 2022 Anne C. Barnhill prize and the 2021 Bacopa Literary Review Poetry competition, as well as a 2019 Parent-Writer Fellowship to Martha’s Vineyard Institute of Creative Writing. She serves as an editor for Luna Station Quarterly and a critic for Pencilhouse. She rarely tweets @shanakatzross.



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