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The Silent Pandemic

The bar’s last call pours patrons

onto the sidewalk below

my apartment. Their conversations, loud

and fluid, dilute to a muted roar.

I haven’t spoken in four days.

My words– a corrosive itch, I scratch

in the shower, hoping to release

what is eating me.

All I unearth is skin, peeling

in clumps like wet paper from ash trees

that died without a creak. Down the drain

pieces roll. Thin cuts– inflamed

and pulsating– are what remain. A reminder

I’m alive but don’t exist

in the minds of those I’ll remember forever.

Every phantom buzz costs

an hour of clenched eyes

failing to defy another

sleepless night as July heat

seeps into my room

until it’s no longer mine. I’m not at home

in this world.

May it one day burn–

slower than the sentences rotting

in the throats of men like me.

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