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Monday's Poem

Sneha Madhavan-Reese lives in Ottawa. In 2014, she was a finalist for The Malahat Review's Far Horizons Award and won third place in The New Quarterly's Nick Blatchford Occasional Verse Contest. Her debut poetry collection, a finalist for the 2013 Alfred G. Bailey Prize, is forthcoming from Hagios Press. Please visit

"On Halloween" was first published in FreeFall Magazine, Vol. XXI, No. 2 (Fall 2011)


© 2015 Sneha Madhavan-Reese

On Halloween
for Michele (1978–1997)

Memorial Drive, autumn,
and traffic is stopped tonight,
this night when only
a liminal veil separates
the living and the dead.

Long ago, on this night,
the Celts built huge fires
and masked their faces to become
what they were not, to imitate
the spirits, or to deceive them.

Tonight, tiny fires
dot the street like so many
red eyes. Everyone is in costume,
even the policemen, in their uniforms,
and the river, draped in darkness.

I haven’t yet learned
that even our bodies are costumes,
flesh and bones that give us form
and make us creatures of anger
and grief. I haven’t yet

learned that the red flares
and police blockade
are for you—
or rather, for your body.
That in an instant—

split seconds between cars,
your trying to cross—
you were hit and, as you
collapsed, hit again.
It was only weeks ago

when I stood back to watch
you talk with my parents.
You spoke, as I could not,
with a smile on your face.
In those few minutes,

I felt closer to you than ever before
or after. That is a day I will
wish I could remember better,

but I did not yet know
to pay attention.



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