Valentine's for the Dead [CW: death] My poems are Valentine’s Day cards for my dead. If he was still alive, I would spend ridiculous amounts of time searching for just the right card. I would forego the ones at the pharmacy; I would turn directly to a small, quirky shop online. He was so incredibly strange and intelligent. I cannot imagine him opening something pedestrian from the corner store. No, it would be something artistic and hip, likely vintage: the doe with large eyes would be against the backdrop of a heart that reads MY DEER, the puppy gently lifting a heart in her mouth. Yes, these poems are my vintage Valentine’s Day cards, my messages of love and dedication. I survey my lexicon and carefully select each word and each breathy pause. I arrange them attentively, making sure they are just right. These are my offerings to him. I dream of our future just as any young couple does–I imagine doing responsible grownup things together, like getting a farm-share, discussing the terrifying state of the world, and trying to avoid food waste. I picture us messy and making love in the kitchen. I picture these quiet and mundane things; delicious, soothing things to partake in after our wild youths. But that was a future that did not manifest, and this is our now: one living girl and one dead boy. If he gave me a valentine, I imagine it would include phrases from poems he wrote about me: phrases comparing my hair to the blackness of a lake, my face to the roundness of the moon. So I dyed my hair darker, the color completely washing me out. I began practicing liquid eyeliner, although I have never been able to perfect the wing. Or any outline, really. This was done to honor my dead, and to remember that he found me attractive enough to write about, to pursue. This was done in the midst of my relationship with a living man, an abusive man, to remember that someone once found me attractive and desirable. That I was not completely worthless as a woman. I write valentine’s to my dead to honor him, to let him know he is still remembered and loved, to foster my relationship with him. I write valentine’s to my dead to remember that someone valued me, loved me, cherished me, and protected me. To help me remember that despite what my abuser said about my body a man once wrote about being obsessed with my breasts, that a man once risked everything to press against me furtively, in a guest bedroom, while my boyfriend texted me asking where I was. These were letters not only to him, but to myself, a lifeline I hung onto until I was strong enough to get out from under an abusive man’s fist. Until I allowed myself to imagine going to the farmer’s market with a living man, one with kind eyes and hands. Happy Valentine’s Day.
Beeper Peddle is a writer and healer living on the East Coast. She lives with her partner and their beloved soul puppy. Beeper writes about sorrows, lies, and deep loves. When you read her work, you will dip down into her heart and end up in all manner of body parts. Should you find yourself reflected in these words, it is merely coincidence; however, it does not surprise her you share the same heart. Find her at bethpeddle.com and @beeperpeddle on Twitter and Instagram
Callie S. Blackstone (she/her) writes both poetry and prose. Her debut chapbook sing eternal is available through Bottlecap Press. Her online home is calliesblackstone.com.