Something You Left to Me

Owen McLeod

This box of apothecary vials with black rubber stops.
A strip of masking tape runs the length of each vial.Scribbled on each strip, the name of a national park:
Zion, Yosemite, Yellowstone, Redwood—nine bottles in all, but you wanted still more
before the thing in your lungs finally killed you.The vials look empty, but I know they’re not—
not because you told me, but because I was there.Each contains air from the park on the label,
air the only stuff you could steal without guilt.You’d hold the vial above your head and explain
how no one can die while surrounded by beauty.Which is why it ended in a machine-filled room,
stifling, falsely lit, encircled by a plastic curtain.Air was all you needed.  I should have crawled in,
unstopped the vials, and touched each mouth to your lips.

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Owen McLeod’s first book of poems, Dream Kitchen, won the 2018 Vassar Miller Prize in Poetry (judged by Rosanna Warren) and will be published by University of North Texas Press in 2019. His poems have recently appeared in Boulevard, FIELD, The Massachusetts Review, New England Review, Ploughshares, The Southern Review, and elsewhere. He teaches philosophy, makes pottery, and lives in Pennsylvania.

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