Jessica L. Walsh is the author of How to Break My Neck as well as two chapbooks, Knocked Around and The Division of Standards. Her work has appeared in RHINO, Tinderbox, Whale Road Review, Sundog, and more. She is a professor of English at a community college and blog manager for Agape Editions.

JESSICA L. WALSH

Expiration Date

That evening we saw he had died.
We carried his hollow-boned body
from the brown carapace of his chair
to the bed where I was born.

My mother’s sighs lengthened,
her lungs sending forth roomfuls of air.

She sat on the edge of the bed
and looked up towards my eyes,
began patting her hair
and smoothing her eyebrows
like I held a mirror showing her flaws.

I am sorry about your birthday, she said,
touching the edge of her mouth.
He wanted to see you grown.

That night in bed beside him
her heart stopped
on schedule.

She would guide him through
one more world
he would not understand.

The undertaker
    unshaven at that hour
took my hand. He soothed
So devoted to family—
they lived only for you, dear.


I was their sentence then,
the time they had to serve.

Spine straight for judgment
I sat on the sofa’s edge
long after he had taken them.

Morning inched upwards.
Sunlight drenched the living room
and our thirsty dust strained to drink its rays.

On the fireplace mantle
the woodgrain glinted

like tally marks
of nearly six thousand days.