Riposi in Pace.

by Johnny Dantonio

It was too young to be love.

We were 5;

a buzz-cut me,

and you,

plated with babyteeth,




going quiet next to each other,

watching our sand castles

turn prey to the tide.

Our parents

monstrously ignored

the atrocity,

on the porch

with their funny tasting sodas.

Those neon bracelets,

hot pink,

neon green,

tattered with

a simple,


black pattern.

They wore in the water,

nothing but rope

by the end of the week;

power bracelets.

But we we kids,

wrist touching,

superhero screaming,



only you and I could share,

on our parents' beach trips

with their best college buds

and their children;

Our brothers

with their first fascinations,

their teenage embarrassment,

surreptitious beach walks,

hormone fixes,

and us;

left between dry,

grassy dunes,

talking about things that I sadly can't remember.

There is a picture

from one of those summers,

one that sits

on a forefront shelf

in my parents house,

our heads touching,

the back right curve of my skull

pinned to your left,

shoulder to shoulder,

wincing we're smiling so hard.

Someone's mom,

or old roommate,

or new girlfriend,

just inches away from us

camera in hand,

investigating our magnetism,

entrapped by innocent intimacy.

When I look at it now,

I wonder who those two are,

who you have become

besides a girl

my mom quietly tells me about

the days before you die.

I thought of you

between the 7,300 days

from then to now,

I bet there are entire weeks

dedicated to you.

Christmas cards,

your southern skin

pink in winter snow,

holding your autistic brother's hand

beneath an evergreen.

The feeble attempt of updates

that ‘the whole gang' did for awhile,

you in sachet

and tiara

on a 50 yard line,

a beautiful woman

that I'd joke about leaving home

to go meet,

the censored version

of telling my parents I wanted you,

every inch of you,

draped around my neck and waist,

dangling beneath me,

shedding from a gold homecoming dress,

and confirming my self-confidence,

waves battering down castle walls,

feeling so ashamed when the next letter,

folded in thirds,

held no photos,

but an article about a brain tumor,

and immediately rubbing a dusty picture frame.

It was these new technology fads,

now worldwide regularities,

in which I learned of your triumphs

through a viral you,

carrying the Olympic torch

through Columbia,

sliding into normalcy

on a Georgia coast university,

and comments

turning into phone calls,

after date parties

or daiquiris,

telling me you missed me

like time never elapsed,

like I had been there after radiation

singed your expanding cells,

to talk about what you wanted

your funeral to look like.

The thought,

ever charming,

was quickly deterred

by a volatile love of my own,

screening your calls to appease a woman,

who would later quench the revenge of a broken heart,

through telling the police I hit her.

As I sat in a jail cell overnight,

I was too far removed from 5,

to remember the best way to catch sand crabs,

and too self interested for keeping in touch with anyone.

Around young professionalism,

renewed mental health,

it was a second hand email

that told me about your remission,

me repetitiously reading a sentence;

“she's decided to live,

treatment free.”

A harrowing emptiness conjured

then vibrated

in the porosity of my bones.

I'm sure there was a late night call home,

a request to negate

what had been passed along,


a debate as though I was convincing you,

not my mom,

stay alive,


a selfish argument I needed to have

to understand selfishness.

The days that followed incorporated you,

for me.

In retrospect,

I was devising a ploy

to indulge in proclaimed creativity,

going and documenting your last years,

falling in love with you,

selling the script as reality.

Maybe I'd write you something

to change your mind,

something so moving,

so powerful,

(I was an english major, you know),

that you'd go through





jaw clenching pain,

jaw open pain,

and maybe we'd meet again,

and fall in love again,

and preach about fate,

and you'd look just like your senior year,

and we'd live that story,

not selling it for anyone,

but living it for one another,

for me.

I wonder if I ever made you cry

on those beach trips,

if I ever hit too hard,

tickled too much,

stole something of yours

and pretended it was mine.

I wish I could think

if there were those childhood moments,

where my mom holds my hand,

walks my red,

swollen face

to look at you,

you sitting in your mom's arms,

sobbing into her shoulder,

and I have to say sorry,

and then I have to repeat it,

and you have to accept it,

look at me and accept it,

and we have to hug,

and then we hold hands running out a sliding glass window,

down a long beach front dock,

onto sunset cooled sand,

our parents behind

giggling at their new maturity.

If I were next to you now,

as you lay in a Carolina bed,


I'd tell you how I'd give anything

to be in that picture,

where I'd close my eyes,

and inherit what's in you now

as our heads touch.