I D K     I S S U E     5


sarah a. chavez

Dear Carole, There is no one with whom to have secrets

The other night
that new chick from work
is driving me home
and I’m telling her a story.
Two blocks from the apartment,
I say, I’ve never told anyone that before.
It doesn’t matter if this statement is true,
if the story is. What matters
is her reaction.

She shifted, uncomfortable.
Said, Why not? Why wouldn’t you
call the police
? Isn’t that
the kind of thing
should tell . . .?
We rode
the brief rest of the way
in silence.
Not a single goddamn thing
in the whole of this corporeal life
is the kind of thing
I need tell anyone.

You and I both know
how I would’ve reacted
in the past
to this kind of disappointment:
voice-raising, stomping
and door-slamming.
Don’t worry,
I keep my shit together
now. I recover fast.
I’ve learned
the only way
to keep people in my life
is to be more
pliant, forgiving
of these moments
where I am reminded
they can’t be you.

In my thirties,
I’ve had to spend time
with people who don’t know
what it’s like to be hungry,
what it’s like to fall asleep
to a chorus of gunshots
and sirens, who’ve never woken up
in a place that is not their own,
having to grope
the floor, littered
with bottles, cans, and needles,
searching for the shirt
they had on last.
Never had to step
faintly over passed-out bodies
to escape.

You’re the only person
I told. Yours the only
window I knocked on at 4 a.m.
Yours the only cigarette
I shared, the only bed I stayed in.

I guess I don’t know
what you told
your girlfriend about me,
but be certain of this:
I have kept your secrets
like photographs,
in a shoebox under the bed,
something I return to
on the nights I can’t sleep.
I run my fingers
over the image of you
outlined by this information.

Do the dead trust?
Have you done this? Tried to fill
the hole in your still heart
where I used to be?
Did you test
your new ghost friends?
Did you find them


Sarah A. Chavez, a mestiza born and raised in the California Central Valley, is the author of the poetry collections Hands That Break & Scar (Sundress Publications, 2017) and All Day, Talking (dancing girl press, 2014), selections of which were awarded the Susan Atefat Peckham Fellowship. Her work can be found or is forthcoming in the anthologies Xicanx: Mexican American Writers of the 21st Century and Imaniman: Poets Writing in the Anzalduan Borderlands as well as the journals Pretty Owl Poetry, Atticus Review, Brevity, North American Review, and The Fourth River Tributaries Series, among others. She recently joined the faculty at the University of Washington Tacoma where she teaches creative writing and Latinx/Chicanx-focused courses. She serves as the poetry coordinator for Best of the Net Anthology and is a proud member of the Macondo Writers Workshop.