top of page

Abbey Gallagher

How to Grieve After Your Second Parent Dies When You Are 21


Ask the dispatcher if she is kidding.

Place head in toilet.

Let your face dry. Focus on broken white lines blurring.

Avoid the side-view mirror’s unrecognizable gaze.

Do not let your little sister see you cry.

Make a joke. Pretend it’s funny.


Wait till everyone sleeps.

Watch yellow yolks splatter,

dribble against birch bark.

Study the energy transference from

a baseball bat

to empty beer bottles

that shatter, shards in your hair.

Ice shoulder in morning.


If only she hadn’t been prescribed narcotics.

If only she had a better therapist.

If only her doctors listened.

If only I called more often.

If only I called.

If only

Do not waste time reasoning with a reasonless

God who is not listening anyway.


When her casket is rolled toward church,

listen to an unfamiliar

primitive shriek.

Recognize it as yours.

Do not leave your apartment

except for deli sandwiches.

Use the rain as an excuse.

Read her letters to lost lovers.

Trace the pen’s careful mark.

Pretend you wrote the words.

Look at old photographs

—white dress, tuxedo

—swollen womb

—blue eyes blue eyes blue eyes.

Sprawl their faces on the floor.

Lay down in memories of

what could have been.


Recite your new mantra like counting sheep:

I have no parents

I have no parents

I have no parents

I have no parents

I have no parents

Look in the bathroom mirror.

Repeat my mom is dead aloud

before scolding yourself

in hot water.

Open Merriam Webster.

Learn you are an orphan.


Abbey Gallagher is a rising senior at SUNY New Paltz originally from Brewster, NY. Her writing has been published in Stonesthrow Review and Chronogram. She is the author of the blog This is Life and is the managing editor of SUNY New Paltz’s student-run literary magazine, Th(ink).

bottom of page