by Kevin McLellan

The heat intensifies as Freddie ascends the stairwell and the suitcase becomes more unwieldy. He opens the letter just outside his apartment door, reads “the biopsy shows no signs of dysplasia…” and places it under his arm with an unopened utility bill. He wonders what condition he’ll find his roommates, the houseplants, after being away for a week and in this July heat.

Freddie undresses down to his underwear, tosses these clothes in the hamper along with the clothes in the white trash bag. The bagged clothes smell of ocean salt and sweat, reminding him of Dimitri from Thessaloniki. They had been inseparable. The last time they saw one another was in Dimitri’s flat after Dimitri transferred to another London college in 1985. Freddie remembers his surname and can spell it phonetically, CATS-VOHN-AH-YOU-NEED-EASE. He wonders if Dimitri ever came out, if he survived the virus.

Freddie walks away from his computer and past the open suitcase, sees inside the rocks he collected from the Maine coast. He fills the kitchen sink about one-fourth full with water and one at a time he submerges each houseplant. Each time Freddie passes the suitcase and admires these fist-sized rocks he wonders if Dimitri tried to find him. Angelwing begonia. Christmas cactus. Crown of thorns. Geranium. Green shamrock plant. Jasmine. Madagascar dragon tree. Orchid. Pencil tree. Philodendron. Once the terra cotta fully darkens, he returns each to their respective post.


KEVIN McLELLAN is the author of Hemispheres (Fact-Simile Editions, 2019), Ornitheology (The Word Works, 2018), [box] (Letter [r] Press, 2016), Tributary (Barrow Street, 2015), and Round Trip (Seven Kitchens, 2010). He won the 2015 Third Coast Poetry Prize and Gival Press’ 2016 Oscar Wilde Award, and his poems appear in numerous literary journals including Colorado Review, Crazyhorse, Kenyon Review, West Branch, Western Humanities Review, and Witness. Also, with Laura Knott, he co-wrote and co-directed the short experimental film, Exordium which was selected for the Cadence: Video Poetry Festival 2020. Kevin lives in Cambridge, Massachusetts and you can find out more about him here:

(Photo by Claudio Fonte on Unsplash)

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