How You Thought It Would Happen

You would take the pain with grace.
You would split in half like an August peach,

then climb into a warm bath. The work
would be quiet and, if not clean, then at least pure.

Later, they would kick loose the bathroom lock,
call your name, bind the edges of your leave-taking

with catgut and medical-grade love. But you’d
be stronger. Livid. Liquefying. Reality

wasn’t even close: you slunk to bed, barely
bleeding. It was your senior year. The next day

(supposed to be the first day
of your afterlife), you helped the juniors

write college essays. Your body was muted
and light and unremarkable: cafeteria peaches

diced and floating in syrup. No one knew.
Nor would they, for years. On your knees

you studied for a French exam, cradling
a battered grammar: Here is

the imperfect. Here is the conditional.
Listen carefully for the difference.