Did you ever play at non-existence?
My brother and I taught ourselves to play the game
no one else would’ve shown two kids:
how to lean forward under the counter,
under our mother’s billowing apron
and imagine a darker shadow,
a more complete darkness rising
before and after the small spheres of light
we knew our lives were. And then, with a little effort,
I could, for a single breath,
almost taste it, what it would mean
to not be anywhere, to never have been.
Darkness filled the space
and left its pale fingerprint on my heart.
And the lesson of our game, one I still can’t fully grasp,
one that my brother and I would stare
into each other, trying to articulate, was this:
that it would have been okay if we’d never lived.
That we were glad, relieved, we did,
but that it would have been okay.
Justin Rigamonti writes and teaches writing in Portland, Oregon, where he co-directs Poetry Press Week—a non-profit poetry organization dedicated to changing the way poetry is presented and published—with co-founder Liz Mehl. His work has appeared in journals and magazines such as The Threepenny Review, Burnside Review, and L’Allure des Mots.
*Image courtesy of the New York Public Library.