To Be Alive

Updated: 5 days ago

Written by Jaime Grookett.


I never remembered him taking off his boots

The way he crept to the side of the bed

Pressed his toes gently on the rubber heels

Sliding them off the soles of his feet

Flicking them from the tips of his toes

Like plucking the heads of dandelions--


I never remembered that.


When I was ten, I swung on a giant homemade tire swing,

Tread worn smooth like leather.

When the blaze for excitement lit me up

I’d grab the coarse yellow rope

Hoist myself onto the worn wheel,

spinning and swirling, spinning and swirling

Feet scrambling, slipping then grasping the angry black wheel

My heart drumming the erratic rhythm of my mind.


This is what it means to be alive.


I never remembered him taking off his boots

The casualness of it all

The mundane moment swimming in a deep sea of mundane moments,

Yet it lurched, leaped, snapped, warned

Even now, the world will never grasp the magnitude of that moment

That pulls at my pantleg, whispers my name--

He walked sock-footed to my side of the bed,

Pursed lips parted slightly to gasp

I lurched not far enough away,

--A mouse falling prey.


I never remembered him taking off his boots.


When I was ten,

And perching on the bald tire grew humdrum

I’d climb the rope

Bristled threads cut my palms deep as I pushed on, higher and higher--

The world shrinking beneath me

Pain of the rope colored the world brighter,

My senses heightening with me.


This is what it means to be alive.


I never remembered him taking off his boots.


Yet now, my fingernails remember

It was the putting on I always remembered

The practical lacing of brown laces on worn boots

As he described my fate if I told--

of the rape

The image of red sputtering from my pale neck

spun in my mind like a crimson web,

weaving and tangling

So, naturally, I’d remember the putting on--


But I never remembered him taking off his boots.


When I was ten, and the world slipped far below me

As I hung high on the yellow rope

My thin legs wrapping around to lighten the weight

Too heavy for my arms to bare

The green earth swirled as my grip slacked from exhaustion.

I held tight as I lowered.

Until one time,

Just because I didn’t choose to come down--

I stayed.

White-knuckled and shaking,

Until my will lost and I plunged deep into the world I dreamed of escaping.

Fiery pink burns covered my arms, my palms.

Fall air scorched my raw skin.


This is what it means to be alive.


I never remembered him taking off his boots

Until one time,

Just because I didn’t choose to forget,

I stayed.

White-knuckled and shaking

Until my will lost and I dropped deep into the memory I dreamed

of escaping.


This is what it means to be alive.





Jaime Grookett is an MFA Candidate at Drexel University and teaches college composition. She is a Fiction Editor at Paper Dragon, Drexel University’s graduate-run literary magazine. Her poetry has been published in The Sock Drawer Journal and Grand Little Things. She is currently working on a collection of short stories and a historical fiction novel.

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