“This is just the aftershock,” I tell her
as she trembles with eyes half here,
half in that night with visions as clear
as day of that face no amount of
therapy with ever erase.
I tell her today’s date.
I tell her what time it is, where we are,
who I am, that I love her.
I tell her that she’s safe now.
Yet she trembles still with every
cell in her body remembering
every painful permanent detail.
“It’s okay, you’re okay,” I tell her, knowing
full well every comforting word I say is a lie,
knowing these memories will continue
attacking her for the rest of her life.
I tell her it gets better with time,
it gets easier, knowing it never will,
knowing she does not need the truth now.
She needs the lies to help her back here,
help her back home from one more of the
hundreds of flashbacks she’ll have her whole life.
I tell her kind lies until I can see her eyes are here,
until she has returned to this curse she’s left to live now,
until she looks at me with half a smile, believing
all of my lies.
Ann Kestner is the founder and editor of Poetry Breakfast. For over 20 years, her work has periodically appeared in various publications. She spent most of her life in Virginia at the edge of the D.C. suburbs. She currently lives in New Jersey along the Raritan Bay.