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Peter Pan in the Catacombs

City Paper 2013 Poetry Contest: First Place

City Paper’s 15th annual short-fiction contest
City Paper’s 14th annual poetry contest

The building’s foundation respected the corpses.
It lay above the graves, he noticed
but lofted, not right on top
so the dead bodies could breathe.

He always refused to wrinkle.
He’s furrowed his brow but
once the curiosity settled
His face became lineless again.

That’s how he charmed her:
Teases, pokes, winks and risks.
“You take years off of me,” she said.
“Be careful, don’t take them off of yourself.”

He smelled the must,
touched the dust
Fingered the numbers,
the years of her life and death.

He sighed, relieved,
his beloved still breathes. No.
The grave’s epitaph breathes her out.
Her whole story exposed
But one word he traced again and again
Cherished.

He cringed at the flowers laid.
He would have preferred the tradition of rocks.
Rocks don’t die, don’t wilt, are never frail
Rocks hold down dead trees.

He walked out.
And for the first time in his life
He hunched.

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