For You, Pretty Girl

By Emily West

“I’m sorry, Mama,” she wrote,

before she hung herself, at twenty-seven.

I remember, then, my poverty,

the foam mattress I bought

from Honest Ed’s, choosing the

five inch over the eight inch, to save twenty dollars;

a room, a winter, no love, no child.


If I could have told her

that California lies, morphs into nothingness,

dilutes a strong belief in anything,

until we shriek for something, even death;

or that someone would love her,

or that children might look to her

to will her back to life.


If I could have made her cry with cold or

somehow known, been there,

held the frightened beating heart.

But I couldn’t and

the ambulance sounded through

the barely biting cold of a San Francisco night

to pick up her thrown-out corpse,

and the pretty face still looks at me

from a story on my phone.