Memento Mori by Sophie Panzer

Your mother is asking for your things back, my love. Your cashmere sweaters, your crockpot, your gold ring that once belonged to your father. As if she is the only one with a claim to them now that you’re gone. As if I have no right to the objects that retain your scent, your fingerprints, your loose skin cells. You’ve been dead for two weeks but I can still see you around our apartment, staring at me from the kitchen table or the living room sofa. Your mother began calling me a few days after you fell off our roof and broke your neck. We were on shrooms and you thought you could fly. First she was stiff and polite, then aggressive and demanding. I stopped picking up and she left angry voicemails about how I have to let all of you go, how what I’m doing isn’t right. When I hear her voice on the phone I look toward you and I can tell by your expression you are on my side, you do not want her to have these final pieces of you. She blames me for everything: the drugs, the drinking, the move several states away from her. I am not responsible for anything; I simply loved you as you were and did not try to change or stifle you. I lived for you, my love, even when you were angry or delirious or too hungover to move. Maybe if your mother had been kinder I would have thrown her a bone – your wallet or maybe your watch. Now she can cajole and wail and scream all she wants, but everything in this apartment belongs to me. I walk over to where you sit atop the kitchen cabinet, peering at me with eyes still so full of love. Even in the formaldehyde the green of them is luminous, unclouded. I let her have the rest of your body, but the best part I kept for myself, bribing the man at the morgue with sex and an old diamond so I could gently rehome you in a jar like a delicate houseplant. I plant a kiss on the glass that separates your pale lips from mine. The phone rings and the message is something about the police, how the morgue man confessed to everything. I do not answer. I deserve you.


Sophie Panzer is the author of the chapbooks Survive July (Red Bird Chapbooks 2019), Mothers of the Apocalypse (Ethel Press 2019), and Bone Church (dancing girl press 2020). Her fiction has appeared in New World Writing, Heavy Feather Review, MAYDAY Magazine, The Lumiere Review, Club Plum Literary Journal, The Hellebore, and others. She lives in Philadelphia.