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by Dayna Hodge Lynch
The Summer People Started Dying
August 2009.
We were scared to go outside after J. didn’t come home.
Remembered how his hunted body molded to the pavement of Colby Street while his spirit
along with the red running from his body like communion wine. We all became holier,
but without the bullets that hollowed him.
J.’s postered face still secluded on the utility pole molting from the weather
begging for someone to name who ambushed J. 11 years ago
Grandma would say, “give time, time.”

From my childhood, my bus buddies taught me how to cuss,
how to play the dozens, and even later how to drink
The first girl who knew my secrets in high school
Placed a rope around her neck to find relief

The next year, #3 was diagnosed with cancer at 12
We watched her wither away
Her funeral the first place I drove to by myself

When I went to math class #9 wasn’t there but the guidance counselor was
With the sympathy flower
I still thought he was skipping class
His asthma attack solidified his rest
#13, #14, and #15—my bus buddies—all overdosed within a month of each other. Heroin
#17 worked late hours trying to save others she fell asleep
wrapped herself around a tree
Mama told me of #22 over stale Frosted Flakes
“When you get as old as me,” Grandma told me, “memory is all you have”
I’m experiencing that now

That same evening, I found out about the accident on 74 where #23’s
head popped off like a Pez
dispenser after that drunk driver wanted to play Russian roulette

2017, after graduation,
I said I love you and for you to wash your dishes before your flight
I didn’t get to hug you
Beside the soiled coffee pot and your 2-bites- removed-everything bagel
your chipped teal coffee mug sat in the sink
2 months and 13 days
Until I could touch it
After the balloon in your chest
Damaged and deflated—-couldn’t be repaired
Couldn’t handle this life anymore
You became #37

Your mother, my grandmother and namesake passed
5 months later—never knowing of your death.

Her mind couldn’t recognize how time works within this realm.
She never would’ve processed her baby boy being gone.
I know I haven’t.
She never forgot “I love you.” We cared for her until the end.

Romans 8:18 and meds worked only for so long
Here I am hoarding these death dates and death numbers—
A collection I never wanted
After the 34th…I should’ve stopped counting
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