Reversal Kit

For Jonathan

He died with the needle lying beside him like a friend
in the darkness of Boston’s North End. The others tiptoed
out, their steps rewound like an old VHS trisected by stripes
of black-and-white static—poison push fentanyl-laced custody family
garbled hush with its exacting latitudes, turned-around time
zones, I imagine they walked backward, never turning back,
down the staircase until they found themselves out on the street
dazed, counting drops of rain, pocketing their lighters
and syringes, fingering the cool hollows of their spoons
thinking: Thank God today has yet to happen. What does it take
to make you walk backward? Turn your back to a mirror, hold up a mirror:
an endless passage opens behind you. At the funeral I stared
at the singer’s feet, her black sandal straps like a series of cross-outs:
no and no and no. This is how it happened: his mind stumbling
around on K Street asking for money, and one by one
they turned him down: pretty twenty-somethings of his eyes,
slouched postal clerk of his mouth, his heart a bull-faced trucker
making his way south, beating heavy metal into the dashboard.
No and no and no and how do you let the static enter you?
Shoot it? Snort it? Suck it all in? Or just let it hush—
the others still standing in the rain: Is he messing with us?
Sleeping? Each answer the same. To turn around now
would be to go forward. But to keep going is to go
I want the static to tear through me like traffic and the bracelet
he gave me with beads like tiny gold seeds, the notebook with a map
of the world. I remember his hands: giant, kind fists. There is no order-
liness to this, no way to spool the dark tape of it—the others
fast-forwarded down the stairs, scattered under an open
sky, and I try to march back, but I can only arrive
at the feet of that singer, her toenail polish bruise-colored
as summers we were younger and younger, tray of iridescence
where we dipped our hoops, trailed shining tunnels behind us forever.

— Lindsay Stuart Hill

Poetry (June 2021)