Wednesday, 8 July 2020

Photo of My Dead Son, Taken At The DMV

by Alexis Rhone Fancher

My son’s photo lives on my computer desktop. In it, he stands at the counter of the DMV, redeems himself from too many tickets, pays the fine, receives a second chance. I can tell he’s learned his lesson, the way he stares into the camera, head in hand, a satisfied look on his face. Like the cat who ate the canary, my mother would say. Death, lurking inside my boy, has yet to make an appearance. He looks immortal. Whenever the photo catches my eye my throat tightens, his face a touchstone. A grief-filled pit. Reduced to a thumbnail, one of a hundred on the screen, my son fights for air. I want to click on his face, open him wide to life, but he would drown in my sorrow if not already dead. Yesterday, K’s son, diagnosed with an AVM at 21. Tests, she writes, dozens of tests. Her boy, acting like a trooper. I can see she’s still in that hopeful phase; reality hasn’t yet sunk in. I want to tell her about another friend’s sweet boy, who died of the same, cruel flaw, the same ticking time bomb in his head, but I don’t; I can’t. Instead, I lie awake, night after night, knowing what grief, too, lies in wait, but I can’t save her son. Last night when I finally drifted off, my dead boy covered me with his yellow baby blanket.

Sleep now, mama, he said.

* * * * *

"Photo of My Dead Son, Taken At The DMV" was first published in Paterson Literary Review (#47, 2019), and is also published in THE DEAD KID POEMS, (KYSO Flash Press, 2019).

L.A poet Alexis Rhone Fancher is published in Best American Poetry, Rattle, Poetry East, 
Hobart, VerseDaily, American Journal of Poetry, Duende, Plume, Diode, Wide Awake: 
Poets of Los Angeles, and elsewhere. She’s the author of five published poetry collections, most 
recently, Junkie Wife (Moon Tide Press, 2018), and The Dead Kid Poems (KYSO Flash 
Press, 2019). EROTIC: New & Selected, publishes in 2020 from New York QuarterlyHer 
photographs are published worldwide, including River Styx, and the covers of Pithead Chapel,
Heyday, and Witness. A multiple Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominee, Alexis is poetry 
editor of Cultural


  1. Heartbreaking. A beautiful testament of your love.

  2. Intimate grief made barely palatable by graceful writing. Tears broke through at the end.

  3. It's a terrific poem, a terrific piece of writing-- unforgettable.