"The Following" - Julia Wagner

They told us
in Sunday school
what death is.
Death is the moment
is when we finally
see God.

I thought it was strange,
the idea
that when our cold, dead hands
were ripped
from warm grasps
our hands would be re-animated
for a handshake with the Almighty.

I asked,
If all death is
is a meeting
with a new friend,
why are those people
dressed in black
always crying?

I was told
it’s because death
is only sad for people
left behind.

And that dead people just return
to that place they came from
and are greeted
as children
coming back from war.

So when my mom’s hair
started to fall out,
and she kept us all awake
as her voice grew hoarse
from screaming,
“Don’t worry,”
I whispered.
“I’ll come too.”

As she faded away
I took the pills
that stopped her nightmares,
and the razor we used
to shave off her thinning hair.

I slid those pills
down my throat
and snapped the veins
in my wrists
for good measure.

I collapsed down on the floor
to wait for my reunion.
Bright red streamed down.
It looked distorted.
Any minute now.

As hands slapped my face,
trying to bring me back to them
I looked ahead
but didn’t see anything.
“What’s happening?” I asked.
“Where are they?”

Too late.
I knew in that moment,
as soon as the question
left my mouth
and echoed
off the walls,
I was alone.

Julia Wagner is a senior English Literature major at UW Madison. She will be graduating in May and hopes to enter an MFA program in poetry. This is her first time being featured on the UWFF publication. She loves playing guitar, reading the classics, over-analyzing television and buying far too many clothes online.