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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 23: 28 April 2024
Prose Poem: 267 words
By Jessica Purdy

I don’t know what happens when we die


Maybe the weight of a soul is measured by the breath it takes to keep a single feather aloft. Maybe when we die it sounds like crushed glass under the bootheel of a junkman. If I dashed it off quickly in cursive, would it disappear like this morning’s mist off the melting river ice? Sometimes I can’t tell if I want to die or if it’s more a romance. One day you’re swinging on the swings with your best friend and the next you’re alone in your recliner regretting all the places you’ve never been. If I could have one thing last, it would be memory locked in dreams. I don’t know what dreams are but they teach me about the kiss inside a closet, the feeling of being inside a soup, as if that’s anyone’s origin and they’re not lacking flavor. Their genes and nurturing and the landscapes of clouds. Maybe after we die is an experiment in absolute darkness. The cave walls are our only friend, and time is told in the steps it takes to come back to the fingered crack in the wall. I can say I love to be alone but still think death will be lonely. I can say I want to be alone and still crave recognition. What if all we ever wanted was to be seen once for the things we dreamed? What if like an eye opening on the horizon, the sun accompanies us, even though in death, we weigh less than the ashes it took to get us here?

Jessica Purdy
Issue 23 (April 2024)

holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Emerson College. Her poems and microfiction have appeared in The Ekphrastic Review, Gargoyle, Gone Lawn, Litro, MacQueen’s Quinterly, The Night Heron Barks, ONE ART, Radar, and numerous others. Her books Starland (2017) and Sleep in a Strange House (2018) were both released by Nixes Mate Books.

Her recent chapbooks include You’re Never the Same: Ekphrastic Poems (Seven Kitchens Press, 2023); and The Adorable Knife (Grey Book Press, 2023), poems based on dollhouse-scale dioramas by forensic scientist Frances Glessner Lee which were collected in Nutshell Studies of Unexplained Death and used to train homicide investigators.

For a longer list of other publications, plus a portfolio excerpted from The Adorable Knife and published by Buttonhook Press in 2022, Murder in the House: The “Nutshells” of Frances Glessner Lee, visit the author’s website:


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