Mo(u)rning Run – Ashley Bunn

blue bricks
Image: Jr Korpa

The squirrel’s insides were draining out of its mouth
again as the day before.
Expansion: slipping away its squirrel-ness,
the thick and red of it,
jelly from a donut.

As pavement moves beneath me,
my closed eyes reveal
my mother leaving our family dog to die alone.

My mother only saw one being die.
Her mother’s breath stumbling
death yellow in the
muted light.
The harsh rhythm of the monitor
beginning to flatten into a continuous scream.
She watched her brother crawl on top of the body,
seeing her brother’s tears for the first time.

In the shower the next day,
through salt and hard water,
she saw her mother with her.
Her naked body, whole,
My mother told me
that her mother’s breasts were
large and heavy and beautiful.
My mother is not usually so poetic.

Her brother would also die alone,
squatting on the damp concrete of
his father’s basement
or in
the fluorescent cave of the hospital.
My mind searches darkness
for details I’ve forgotten, or was
never told.
Sores for skin and holes for teeth.
The colorful toothbrush
I delivered to him
struggled against the
deep gray of his surroundings,
his broken-plate smile,
his voice thick with
gruff southern-ness.
I never saw his body
whole and complete
after he left.

Maybe his son saw him.

Air escapes
in fresh, burning bursts.
My body and mind turn
the corner.

My cousin,
born one day before me,
our baby hair matching,
fine and translucent.
His young body would
twist, and shake
knees kissing during late nights
of golden, childhood laughter.
The poster hanging on his
wall, beginning to fade.
Elvis’s slick black
hair almost white in places.

My cousin named his newborn
daughter Elena, and only knew
her a few short weeks
before he left.
Years of drowning led to
years of sobriety.
A girlfriend, stepdaughters.
What he called happiness,
through the digital blue of the screen.
Reaching out over miles
and years.
He wanted to
tell me about his life.
His baby.

The blood in my ears grows
louder as I near the end of my route.
Mind searching for a place
to hang my sadness.

No one ever confirmed
how or why he left.
Such a watery light.
Pale skin and summer freckles.
Pisces, double.
The end of the Zodiac
straddles the edge of the veil.
He was never here completely.

Two weeks after he left,
his daughter left too.
The light of the screen
again bringing its obituary,
its haunting.
The words,
“goodbye my angel”
all lowercase
raced toward me.
No capital letters
of devastation.
No place to hold greif.

The tightness in my chest twists
on each inhale.
Again, my closed eyes reveal
a picture of my cousin,
holding his newborn daughter.
Anxious curve of a smile,
a small bundle of pink.

Rubber presses the dark pavement in repetition.
The squirrel continues to shed its form.
When the flesh is gone, I am considering adding its bones to a shrine.
Small, white.
Solid and hard enough
to hold something.
This is the closest I have been to the process,
what happens after they leave.
I want to stay for the whole thing.


Ashley Howell Bunn is pursuing her MFA in poetry through Regis University where she is also a graduate writing consultant. She reads and helps develop community engagement for the literary journal Inverted Syntax. Her work has previously appeared in The Colorado Sun, the series Head Room Sessions, and more. When she isn’t writing, she teaches and practices yoga and runs a small personal business centered around healing. She lives in Denver, CO with her partner and child. Instagram: @howellandheal

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