NOR 25.43: If Your Spouse Dies First

by Stephanie Johnson
Featured Art: Lady Lilith – Dante Rossetti

Option One

              Move to a different country.
              Take a new spouse.
              Make beautiful different-country babies
              with soft, different-country hair

and only speak your old-country language
late at night in between dreams.
Your new husband will ask the following morning
who this person is; you keep repeating his name.

              Oh, you say, in your new language.
              Don’t worry about it. Just an old friend.

Option Two

Build a house. Bake your late spouse’s remains
into the walls. Like the spectrophiliac Amethyst Realm,
feel paranormal hands on your legs and back
as you rub yourself on the corners of the foyer.

              Moan the name
              your ears haven’t heard
              since you reopened the coffin
              and saw silver bones.

Option Three

              Meet a woman with dark hair
              and patience longer than yours.
              Tell her a lie:
              you’ve never done this before.

                             She’ll grin and say, “Sure you haven’t.”
                            Later, in her shower, pressed against
                            the pink tile wall, you can’t help but notice
                            she uses his same shampoo.

Option Four

              Take his ashes to sea
              as written in the will.

                            Throw yourself overboard
                            with the urn in your arms.
                            Clutch a pewter cloud
                            and confuse the stingrays.

Option Five

              Shave your head,
              smoke Cowboy Killers,
              and take lovers. Flocks of lovers.
              Murders of lovers.

              In the wan, silent kitchen light
              after the trampling herds leave
              for the evening, you will pick up
              your wedding ring from the dish by the sink

                            and contemplate, once more,
                            throwing it into the garbage disposal,
                            how it would spark and grind
                            slick in the coffee grounds.

Stephanie Johnson is the recipient of an Asheville Regional Artist Grant and the first-place winner of the 2017 Lumina Magazine Poetry Contest. She is the Editor-in-Chief of The Passed Note. Her work has been published by Beecher’s Magazine, Jabberwock Review, and QU, among others. She lives in Asheville, NC, with her husband and their seven bookshelves. Her website is

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