My nine-year-old brother built a set of working headphones from scratch today. This was after he and my mother adopted a pair of rats from the Humane Society, which inexplicably has rats, and she wanted me to know that the man who walked them through the adoption went to my middle school, that he had her as his seventh grade English teacher. She thought I would remember his name, when she told me, but what I remembered instead was the way she looked that year, doing her hair in the mirrored medicine cabinet we purchased at Ikea with her parents two summers before in Minnesota. The loathing I felt toward that house, to which we moved suddenly when I was eleven; she fell in love with it during an on-a-whim showing and our commute felt like lifetimes, our sunrises three a day chasing the horizon through frost. That house, the only place I ever saw her truly, happily alone as she decorated to her own taste with music turned up loud, between husbands. Its walls hung with art she curated to match herself: dark and sturdy and strange. Its high ceilings. I had already inherited her sense of color. Her single, asymmetrical dimple. Her peculiarly married personality traits and her freckled, light skin and her innate, well-guarded softness. Today, she told me that my nine-year-old brother built a set of working headphones from scratch, and also that the man at the Humane Society who adopted them their new pair of rats went to my middle school and had her as his seventh grade English teacher. I’m not sure why she’s up, with our time difference, but I’m up this late on a Sunday night because I have nothing else to be. My Humane Society cat is curled up on the bed having nearly overturned my supermarket iced tea twenty minutes ago. The blood-soaked weekend hasn’t settled, the summer sky choking on the aftermath of an enormous fire north of the border. This year of only panic. I am very tired. On Monday, the same mother whose second child is likely a genius and who taught seventh grade English to a rat-adopter told me that my stepfather’s mother was unresponsive and being moved into hospice after her heart attack. On Wednesday, the same mother who invited two more tiny lives into her heart told me it is one of the great privileges of loving people that we get to sit and be with them as they die.
Carly Madison Taylor is a poet, songwriter, and essayist living in Buffalo, NY. She earned her BA in Creative Writing and Dance Studies from Knox College in 2016. More of her work can be found at or is forthcoming from Rhythm & Bones Lit, PVSSY MAGIC, Memoir Mixtapes, Blanket Sea Magazine, and Vamp Cat Magazine. She’s on Twitter @carma_t and Instagram @car_ma_t.