Lydia Havens

Lamentation in the Mostly Empty Movie Theater


Natalie Portman is Jackie Kennedy for an hour and forty minutes—
her husband’s blood slips down her back under the shower head
and I immediately think, it’s the flag. The stripes. The promise.


+++ But really, it’s just her husband’s blood. The scene
+++ where she tries on all her old party gowns
+++ and makes a toast in a vacant dining hall
+++ was not a metaphor for the current state of politics,
+++ or what a woman’s place once entailed.
+++ That was just grief. The fact that it was

a president who died and left that vicious empty
behind for her doesn’t make it any different, really.
Take all those eyes off of her and Mrs. Kennedy
is just like my aunt, or my mother, or me.

++++++ Because really, loss does make us all difficult.
++++++ After my uncle died, we each became
++++++ cemetery mud. Waterlogged veils.
++++++ Frantic psalms. My family tried
++++++ to protect my uncle’s legacy,
++++++ but everything we did was either too excessive
++++++ or not enough at all.

In the movie, no one tells Jackie Kennedy outright
that she is making this procession a burden,
but they don’t have to. All those administrators
look at her, and it’s like they forgot the definition
of the word widow. Maybe they never truly knew it.
There are some words that have to be lived in
to completely understand. I was 10 years old
when my uncle died. I read the word suicide
in relation to his life so often, and 3 years later
I tried to completely understand it. Crawled
inside that word but woke up in a different one:

+++ attempt, or take, or almost

++++++++++++I don’t know if I will ever stop involuntarily
++++++++++++seeing myself in every aftermath of loss.
++++++++++++I’m not trying to make all of this about me—
++++++++++++I’m just trying to heal. Crawl inside of closure
++++++++++++++and never have to leave. Jackie Kennedy did remarry,
++++++++++++but I wonder if she was ever able to do just that.
++++++++++++I want to know if she ever went to bed one night
++++++++++++and had unseen everything by the time she woke up.

++++++++++++++++++++++++I want to believe she did.

Two weeks after my uncle’s funeral,
I got to travel to Arlington Cemetery
as part of a school trip. I stood
in that field of bodies and country
and grief. I asked the tour guide
what will happen when
there’s no more room for any more
caskets and headstones—he shrugged
and said, that’ll be it, then.
it’ll just be too full.

Nine years later, and I still don’t
understand those limits. What does
too full mean when we’re talking about
death? When do we get to the point
where we have to live in it?

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Lydia Havens is a queer femme poet, editor, and community organizer originally from Tucson, Arizona. Their work has previously been published in Winter Tangerine, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Black Napkin Press, among others. Their debut full-length collection, Survive Like the Water, was published by Rising Phoenix Press in 2017. Lydia was a part of the 2017 Boise Poetry Slam team, which placed 7th at the National Poetry Slam’s group piece finals. They’re currently studying Creative Writing and History at Boise State University. They were born on their due date, and have been painfully punctual to everything since.

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