How Death Lingers

by The Cowl Editor on January 27, 2022


woman holding flowers over her eyes
Photo courtesy of

by Mariela Flores ’23

Content warning: This poem contains themes of death and suicide.

Both of my parents teased their death. One friend took their death and plastered it onto every wall of my life. I had my very own half death, one at twelve, another at fifteen––I am starting to think these events are related.

While I witnessed all of these half deaths: my dad’s two heart attacks, my mom’s staggered breathing; while I witnessed the aftermath of a life in the face of Arianna on a hot July day,  

no one,  

not one person,   

has ever witnessed my own.  

I have never said it out loud, can’t utter the words, it’s too hard.  

If I am sitting in a therapist’s office and they ask me if I’ve had thoughts of hurting myself,  

there’s venom that lingers in their voice that poisons the time I have to talk.  

If I say it, the death thing, I’d have to fix it and fixing it means being sent away.  

And I am far too afraid of being somewhere other than near.

I want to feel different from my younger selves.  

They left behind raised skin and an itchy habit that makes me hate them.  

My body has changed, I cut my hair and it’s darker now, but this part of me–– 

like lines to an old song—stays stuck on me and it makes it so hard to feel changed.  

I am actively trying to learn how to live and how to want to live and how to tell myself that wanting to live and learning how to live is just as good as living.

Death lingers on my worst days, loud and crass,  

it hums on my best days, static, white noise.  

On the best days and the worst days, I will myself not to listen.