For Kevin

I have been drafting a series of poems for my older cousin Kevin. For the past two years. He died unexpectedly in August of 2016. Everyone still feels his absence. He is a person who means a lot to many people. To me he was one of the few men in my family with whom I didn’t have a complicated relationship. Everything was laughter, be you, and like what you like. He nurtured my love for sci-fi, took me to the movies and the parks, talked to me about comics and Marvel cannon, and was my date to 2 out of 3 of the Roots concerts I attended. His birthday was the 22nd. To honor him, my mother, aunt and I spent that evening watching Black Panther. I miss him. Here are a few pieces from the draft.


Last summer.

I ignored

at least three signs

of death.

A whole deer without antlers

wide eyed and on its side.

A dried and crumpled crow.

A flattened rat with its head still intact.

When I heard you died, I could not help but to think

I was warned and failed to prepare

For this thing that felt so out of order.

This summer I notice all the dead things. I even count them.

Some man


Will hold a cigarette between two bloated fingers and remind me of you.

And I will cry.

Ancestor Day

My aunt.

Is your mother.

How do I read her

After you die?

She stands guarding her door

Not ready to soften the way grief

Sometimes demands.

The way grieving relatives sometime expect.

Her jaw is clenched.

Her shoulders tight.

She is posed to shoo away mourners.

Your dog waits with us on the porch outside the house

Covered in tumors.

Waiting waiting.

Maybe for your return.

You left your reading glasses on an open newspaper from the day before.

Ready to be picked up.


Never again.

I count six Bud Light cans that did not make it to the blue recycling bin that sits off to the side.

The entire porch still smells like you.

Absence Felt

It is no longer a Sunday on the 7th of August.

A day your mother finds you in bed


Two days

After your first birthday as an ancestor

She and I talk.

She is watching Grim

And has nodded off to the glow of her television.

We tell each other how happy we are to hear the other’s voice

And hang up.

You are still not here.

© 2018 by Miya Upshur Williams

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