by Alicia Grega

Every few months, I take a picture of myself
and make it easy to find
so they won’t have to look long
when I die.
The struggle against the camera is real.
The French call us jolie laide
we, the unpretty,
the unphotogenic.
Maybe it’s vain to want a clear shot,
a better fade-out,
than the blurry, pixilated women of a certain age,
cut from the background of family gatherings.
The women who lift a hand in front of their face
when they see a camera coming.
I’ve come to think of my forced smiles
and experimental cocks of the head
as a form of self-care,
a symbol of my worth,
a refusal to become invisible.
At work in the copy center,
marijuana drenched mourners present a homemade prayer card—
a typo in the Lord’s Prayer—
their lost lady’s image shot from a webcam.
Could they not find a sober pic?
Or were her glassy eyes always rubbed red with bloodshot pain?
Later, we read the obits while dinner cooks,
seeking signs of overdose and fellow Friends of Bill W.
Here’s a blurry woman, who died too young at fifty,
peering through blonde feathered wings and ’80s perm—
she got by with a little help from Aqua Net—
black lines ring dreaming eyes
above a baby face smile.
She died at home from—
they declined to say—
probably heartbreak or exhaustion.
Chronic disappointment mapped out in pills.
Sick and tired of being sick and tired.
She waited for it to get easier: it never did.
One daughter,
Two children,
Three sisters,
Four sisters and their husbands,
brothers or sisters who’ve already passed,
One mother,
Two pets,
No husband.
There’s rarely a husband when women die young.
Women who survive into their eighties and nineties always had a husband.
And so now I’m thinking twice about a second marriage.
Two well-educated single mothers dead at fifty-four.
This lady was a private nurse before she got sick.
This one volunteered for the poor.
That one soldiered against breast cancer.
She was a spiritual leader, sharing her love for God’s word.
She was a giver, like women are trained to be.
She cooked and baked for everyone.
She gave too much.
Maybe if they had given back as much as she gave them,
she would still be serving.
Maybe if she had taken care of herself
the loving way she cared for others,
there would be a more recent photo.

Alicia Grega is a writer/editor and adjunct instructor at Lackawanna College in Scranton Pa. Plays produced include Operation Wanderlust, Insomniac Salad, Banger’s Elixir, and White Matter Surplus. A poetry chapbook featuring original photography titled “Haptikos” was released in 2015. Alicia holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Theatre Arts from Drew University and an MFA in Writing for Screen and Stage from Point Park University. She is a member of the Dramatists Guild of America.