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I Dream about My Friend Who Died During the Pandemic and Didn't Get a Funeral

Published onAug 27, 2023
I Dream about My Friend Who Died During the Pandemic and Didn't Get a Funeral

Photo by Taryn Elliot:

1. Water is dripping from the kitchen ceiling,
pooling on the laminate.
I’m soaking it up with a mop,
wringing it out in a bucket,
but it won’t stop.
Suddenly I’m not in the kitchen
but on some nondescript college campus.
I see you in the distance, broad-shouldered,
clad in a tweed jacket and leather beret.
You’re walking away, getting smaller.
I call your name with such force
my throat turns to gravel.
I cough up pebbles.
I’m wading through water,
waiting for it to recede,
but you’re getting farther and farther from view.
It always did feel like you were just beyond reach.

2. When I met you, I came to understand
that poetry could save us.
We squeezed poems to death,
trying to wring answers from them.
You’d leave them on my voicemail
late at night, and I’d wake up to your voice
like morning curtains slowly drawing open.
For a long time, I didn’t know how you died,
but I imagined one of those poems
got tired of being tortured, 
reached its warm hands through the page
and grabbed you by the neck 
and you didn’t fight it.
You were tired of fighting.

3. I’ve been collecting scraps of grief
like I’m making a quilt.
It shows up unexpectedly—in the way
I fell in love with a man who looked like you
and I used your blueprint to construct him.
In the end, it was my unsteady hand
that sent the whole thing toppling over.
You’re still the one I want to call
when I read a poem that sets me on fire. 
I drink half a bottle of Cab Sav
and pretend to read a poem
into your answering machine,
wading through silence. Waiting.
In my dream, you’re there
on the other end of my message,
asking to be saved.
You’re going to love this one, I say after the beep.
This one is going to change everything.

Sarah Mills is a freelance writer and editor. Her poetry has appeared in Glass Mountain and Philadelphia Stories. You can visit her at

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