Talking Dirty


Ten years after you died I asked you
Was it worth it?

and this time you did not answer,
your mouth being full of dirt.

Dirt followed me around. I spent
nights vacuuming and mopping, trying
to beat out the echo of your footprints.

Twenty years on we’d both decayed.
You streaked my hair dull and greasy.

Twenty-five and I’d got the news
you dirt-mouthed me to expect.

The chemo was violent, like you.
I stopped it, too.

Somehow I still had the paper
I worked your dosage out on.
I’d almost forgot the mess of finding you.

All that palaver.

I took pains choosing my tree.
With enough planning, as I told you, any tongue
can return to roots.


Jennifer A. McGowan‘s disability is not keeping her from publishing her collection How to Be a Tarot Card (or a Teenager) with Arachne Press in 2022. She spends most of her life either by the sea or in the 15th century, only returning to Oxford for extra gravity and levity. She holds a PhD from the University of Wales and she has had Long Covid for 23 months at time of writing.