Vivisepulture

In the morning, you sat patiently in my lap, trying
to forget the California heat burning into your white fur
and lowered vampire eyes. Your ears perked for a second when my ten-year-old
hands pulled you onto the tiled bathroom floor of an
air-conditioned basement you hadn’t been in before.
But your body, sluggish and tired, refused to move and turned away
from the water I held before your thirsting eyes.
I came back with the carrots but you never saw me.
I froze when you showed me
your body sprawled across the floor, weakening with every
prayer you sent for another breath.

I remember the foam.
Thicker than the bubbles I could make with hand soap, less opaque than
too-much shampoo lathered from forehead to ear to ear.
Afterwards, I tried mimicking you, balancing spit at the entrance
between my lips, softly exhaling until it popped like perfectly chewed
bubblegum. That day, you balanced the bubbles for an hour until they
covered the space between the blush-pink triangle and hidden lips, so I
couldn’t tell if you were exhaling from your nose, or mouth.
Or if you were exhaling at all. I begged dad to help, It’s too late, I’m sorry.
But I held your paw in my hand and felt the beat pulsing through
my fingers, swelling against the hair-tie tight around my wrist.

I watched from the upstairs window and waited until he left.

Hidden by the curtains of leaves falling to my ankles, weighed down
by barely-emerging persimmons, the tree formed a delicate bubble of green.
I began to dig with a shovel I couldn’t even lift, that towered above my head even
when I hit the shoebox: hidden under pounds of dirt, below the decay of roots
and half-eaten mushrooms that they warned me not to touch. I touched
them now, brushing away the black specks until I could
bring your body into my lap again. You looked back through clouded
lenses, ignoring the foam that I tried to wipe away with my sleeve, already
plastic and hardened from an hour underground.

My hand found your paw, and my fingers wrapped around your chest,
searching for the same throbbing I felt when I sat by your side on the
basement floor. Mud crusted at the
corners of your eyes and at the base of your nose: traces of
a breath and of soil crushing your throat and filling your lungs.

I felt it in my lungs too, taking my breath in staccato, forcing me
to stop and stare at your cold body, pressed against the front of my shirt. 
Your vacant eyes followed mine as your head drooped to one side:
suddenly heavier than my hands could hold. So I dropped you and
buried you back in the grave, piled handfuls over your
soiled fur in a daze, mixing with the sweat dripping from my eyes.

When the white disappeared and the ground was even, I dropped
against the rough tree bark,
between home-grown tomatoes and garlic cloves, laying
just feet above your own carcass. I thought I could hear whispering of a
ghost voice, that I imagined to be a rabbit’s breath, from the calls
of sleeping birds and buzzing of flies circling the backyard.

And as I watched the sun shrink
and spread an unhuman chill across the sky, I felt the air
drip from my lashes and calm the
twitching muscles, and guide the first shivering exhale from
my stomach, through my lungs, and back towards the moon.

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