2002 (When Ryan Dies) by Kindall Fredricks



We are moon-smacked cheeks all sugared up
with candied Presbytaria and boys’ names stranding

tooth to tooth like taffy   When we tangle our bodies
around the collective love letter to Ryan the silver legs

of the desk are as cool as peeled fruit against our skin
still brandied with sun from PE    Ryan sits next to Tanav

a name Mrs. Liam flicks from her mouth with an ear-
tipped smile         Who delivers it? We are supposed to

laugh at Tanav when he stubs his tongue on redcoats
at the way his shirt gums “M cha l Jack on” and blurts out

his beany elbows                 Do you think we’re cute
Circle yes or no    A feathered dart twirls in the chest

Kari willows the R in Ryan her wrist weightless as it brushes
across the paper untangling his name from the pencil

Mrs. Liam hovers over Tanav as we pretend to recite
the pledge of allegiance but really we’re mouthing lyrics

to a song we can’t hear     The room is powdered with it
a slipped sleeve       floss in the sea              falling into the sky

The next Monday, all we think about are boys

Boys metabolized by the woods they’ve always played in,                  fall air tinkling their rock-sugar bellies
and popping their glazed polymers                               to shake loose their sweet dust. They were all
invited to Ryan’s party, but Aaron had shingles.                                      Six boys whimming tree to tree, roots jittering
with the fuss of their Vans.            The tips of their ears must have been pinched red with cold.           The
tabby leaves must have rubbed against the static of their voices.   They must have plucked them from
their jackets.                         The ground may have known first                may have been tender—drawing Ryan
away from the curling of his body       like familiar, gloved hands.    If the bullet had hit the bird
if the bullet had hit the bird
if the bullet had hit the bird, it wouldn’t have made any more sound than it did exiting                         Ryan’s
temporal lobe,    igniting a flue of images reimagined as infrasound:
A lemon zippering the cheeks                        The grubbing of infant nostrils,   dilating with the smell
of his mother’s breastmilk              The clatter of someone else’s hand             The scrape of shame when his
cousin ate lunch alone.                     In the milliseconds before the bullet—
Tanav may have felt aerated with the thrill of citizen  he didn’t  mind its crude bulk
the disappointment his father would feel if he heard Tanav say     gunman     instead of petroleum
engineer or how he slicked back Karachi with bombs instead of parks               When the force of the gun
rattled through his bones         It may have even made his body hum with a song
about act like summer walk like rain                                   about the color yellow



Kindall Fredricks is a practicing registered nurse and an MFA candidate at Sam Houston State University, focusing on both poetry and the intersection of literature and the medical sciences. Her work has appeared in WomenArts Quarterly, the Journal of Graphic Novels and Comics, Badlands Literary Journal, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, NELLE, and the Academy of American Poets.

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