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After She Told Me You Pushed Her Down the Stairs

After She Told Me You Pushed Her Down the Stairs

woman at bar

After She Told Me You Pushed Her Down the Stairs

by Nadine Klassen

I pretend to be one of your students,
here to play piano or whatever you teach.

I say, I already know how to read notes
but can you teach me something else.

It’s just us and the lacquered grand piano.
Beethoven in little black dots with tails

is the only witness
I can afford.

I’m dressed up real nice,
even put on a dress,

the white one with the red
flower print and the mid-high slit.

Put my hair back with the teeth
of a clip and left

some strands out to frame my face
like the picture of a sweet girl.

We go out for drinks at a local bar
because I know your throat

dries out. Sit down at the counter,
you tap your fingers like a suspect

would before interrogation.
I wrap strands of my hair around my finger

like caution tape, drink a whiskey sour
and then another long drink you order for me,

my DNA smeared across the rim of the glass,
all set and ready to be bagged

and numbered. You stick to vodka
on rocks, your hands finally firm

as your grip around her wrists.
I lure you up the wooden winding stairs

at the dimmed back of the bar
that lead to the public toilets

and when we’re at the top
it just takes a little push

for you to trip and fall
like gun-drop. Empty vessels

make the most sound, I think,
as you rip the fairy lights off the handrail.

They’re not lifelines, stupid.
I observe how they turn

into handcuffs
instead. I call her

or send a photo of you
lying there at the bottom of the staircase

just like she must have done.
No blue lights, no sirens.

I wasn’t there, then,
I was elsewhere.
I wake up with a song in my mouth.

Nadine Klassen is a German poet and author of the chapbook Bruises, Birthmarks & Other Calamities (Cathexis Northwest Press, 2021). Her work focuses on identity, relationships, mental health and trauma. It has been published by Rust + Moth, The Write Launch, Kissing Dynamite and others. She lives in her hometown with her partner and their dog. (Author photo taken by Sofie Kohaupt).