At the back alley bar,

Just a little passed downtown Joliet,

Hanna has a drink while we talk.

My hands lie awkwardly in my lap

With a wristband wrapped around me telling that I am underage.

Some of the lights above the bar are burnt out and the bathroom has not been cleaned.

This bar should have been shut down years before,

We should not have had the opportunity to sit there last night,

If it weren’t for people like Hanna, they would be out of business.

The windows would be boarded up.

But they’re not.


Hanna asks me if I have finished her poem.

Her eyes are glossy,

Given that she has had a few beers,

I cannot tell if they glance down to hide intoxication,

Or impatience.

I do not tell her that I imagine I will finish her obituary

Before I ever finish a poem that captures her beauty.


This is not to say it could take tens of year to finish,

This is to say I am scared.


Hanna’s funeral is a recurring nightmare.

I have it so frequently and I am afraid.

So instead, I latch onto her little finger loosely with mine,

Letting it slip out as I walk away to go home for the night, and tell her



This night she gets a DUI,

And I…

I start writing.

Not her poem, but her obituary.

Eventually, this is the way I will tell her.

Tell her it is too much for me to watch her die.

I have tried for too long to be shot down.




All I can do is tell the masses that she was the prayer she never believed in.

The talks in the basement of the church did not make either of us believe in God,

But I wish it had us believe in something.

Something bigger than us to bring her back down

When she gets too high.

This girl with a smile bigger and brighter than ice caps,

Brought beauty to this world,

Even if only for a moment.

Crying in high school bathrooms,

Cuts and creases on her ankles,

Key on her neck,

The van she drove and the men she drove mad.

Hanna was beautiful.

Long copper hair like pennies that lived longer than her,

Hands that held everyone like the entirety of Heaven in her wingspan,

Hanna had eyes like a newborn

So big.

So innocent and naive

Careless scars that cared more for others.


I used to believe she was a blessing brought down to Earth,

Just for me.

I used to believe she was

A teacher to tell me it’s okay to hurt,

As long as I learn from it.

But teachers can teach skills they never fully develop themselves.

Hanna practiced patience, and sobriety.

Purity, but not prudence.

Puppy dog eyes when she wants something,

Pursed lips and punches when she didn’t.

But the practice was never applied.

Hanna held her own for so long, but finally let go.

She began binge drinking most days.

Blacked out by sun down

And calling me by midnight,

Thinking the sun was still shining,

Actually kind of sweet,

To think she never had the see the darkness and distress her body was in.

I want to know what happened to eating starburst

And waiting for the trains to pass underneath us,

Sitting on the tracks for hours to see our feet dangle above the freights.

Seeing each other.

Really seeing each other.

The way one of us laughed,

It would linger until the next laughed,

Lipstick like a heart lining only half her mouth,

Bunny teeth that told tales of her baby brother,

Her father, and her mother.

Not tales of how many handles of liquor she could handle herself.

Really seeing each other.





I hadn’t seen Hanna sober in years.

I guess I hadn’t seen her cry in a few years either,

But I would have rathered the blood, bruises and tears.

The drugs she does now drag her closer to death each day

Than she ever did herself.

I needed Hanna that believed in boyfriends

Even less than she believed in cheating.

Hanna that had never held a bowl,

Hanna that could not describe the difference between stimulants

And depressants.

Let alone the lethargic feel when on both.

I needed Hanna that held me in the hallways,

Had McDonald’s after music festivals,

And drank Kool-aid until her tongue turned turquoise,

Kept every note until it was crinkled with age,

Called everyone to make sure they got home safe,

Cared for her father,




But I’m afraid to tell Hanna this.

So instead, I’ll sit down one last time at the bar with Hanna,

And watch her binge drink,

While I wobble back and forth on my broken bar stool out of both

Boredom and anxiety

And wonder when the day will come.

Go home and have more nightmares.

Hope she gets to read this,

Rather than me shoving it in a glass bottle

And labeling it “Hanna” with a heart next to it,

And sharing it with the dirt near the grave,

And the dirt that has been blessed with the most sober Hanna

That anyone had seen.

This poem is about: 
My family


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