The last time I saw you I was

in a place where we were all built to fail


when the worst among us had extra holes in our faces

were electrocuted carefully and at regular intervals


showered with all our clothes on

with water hot enough to make us change colors


They made her stop

filling the only bathroom with her ghosts


They could make her

There were no locks


Everyone said they couldn’t imagine

They taught time management to homeless men


The only doctor I respected praised someone

anyone lesser would have called non-compliant


for what he wouldn’t do when he thought they were watching

He died in some way


I tried hard not to find out

It was California, and I went back there


sat on rooftops full of candles

talked to strangers


who didn’t know to find me dangerous

There was a piano playing infinitely far away


I had only gotten here by being afraid

for many consecutive days


to be open

in the event of my death


like the letter below the letter

like hell


You told me his death had nothing to do with me

unless I wrote us into a corner


held us hostage

where it was okay


if only one of us made it out alive

The light is just the same


in so many rooms

where I’ve been told to have hope


for what would surely happen

if only I had enough time

Larisa Svirsky is a philosophy PhD candidate at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She was a finalist for the Erskine J. Poetry Prize. Her poems have appeared or are forthcoming in jubilat, TYPO, Foundry, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, and elsewhere.