Partway thru and
I begin to grit my teeth into the pain
I can take 5 more minutes
It’s not the same
He’s not the same
I don’t have to sacrifice myself
Or bite my tongue
He loves me
He will listen
And it hurts
All the way thru and
My fingers come back red
He looks pale
That’s a lot of blood
I feel grim and all-knowing
You’ve never had a period
He keeps asking
Are you okay
I keep replying yes
Getting ready to walk home
It is too much to explain
This blood is nothing
That is okay
What is not is my soul
Which now bleeds for the past
Which will be sore tomorrow
And bitter, and vengeful
Holding grudges against
The motions of a long-ago person
I feel in your body
It was a beautifully heartbreaking moment. We were lying there in the dark, sharing thoughts in whispers. Listening to the house quieting down around us. We had been touching, tangling for so long it felt sweet to sink into the downy pillows. We lapsed into silence. The fan was whirring above us and the frogs formed a faint chorus outside. His breathing began to slow and deepen, shuddering slightly on the inhales. I gripped his arm. He was falling asleep and I was alone right next to him. I wanted to pull him back, to be conscious together and share the beauty of the moment. There was so much to tell him. All the long-lost apologies welled up in my throat and their urgency leaked out from my eyes. We had been together and then I was alone. Please come back.
I was crying now for everyone who has woken up or opened the door or picked up the phone only to find their partner is gone forever. I cried for all the hurt in the world and it came to me in gasping sobs. I shook quietly so as not to wake him. He was so peaceful. His shape was perfect against the bed. I sat there watching him, hoping he would wake up and hoping he wouldn’t. I wanted to say I needed him but it wasn’t true. I needed to have my hair stroked, to be held tight, and to love fiercely without cause or hesitation. In that moment, I did. I longed to press my hands to his cheeks and kiss his forehead and love him with abandon. It was enough to imagine how we could change the world if we tried.
As I eased myself out from under the covers, he grabbed me in his sleep, slipping his hand down my torso as if to keep me there. I paused. I knew it wouldn’t last, and I cried for that too. It was time to go home.
I try to busy myself filling out paperwork for my new job. I’m not thinking of you, not thinking of you, most certainly not thinking of you pushing my hair off my forehead or your hands caressing my stomach. Not thinking of the coldness with which I shut you out. My mind is not whirling through all the ways I can get you back into my life. Just yesterday we were standing shoulder to shoulder on the beach. You put your arms around me, laid your head in the crook of my neck. And I was still with fear. Paralyzed by the knowledge that I would never be important enough to you. That I would never affect you in the way you were already affecting me. The ultimate terror: that we will love another more than they love us.
Why am I so afraid of this? I picture myself being squashed like an ant under your shoe, my emotions spilling out on the sidewalk.
You clambered down a tangle of tree roots. I followed, but I was slower, and once I reached the edge of the water you were out of sight. Where did you go? I sat down on a bench in the sandstone. The way the rays of afternoon sun hit the bay was so beautiful I could hardly believe I was witnessing it. It was too beautiful. Everything felt surreal. The beauty and the pain were together, and they swept over me. I wondered if I was truly seeing this, truly present. I gathered my legs up to my chest and started to cry. After a while you walked over to me. You had been hidden by a rocky outcropping. You had been so close, that whole time. You sat next to me but didn’t say anything.
I can’t let myself be vulnerable. I don’t meet your eyes. My voice comes out sharp and bitter, but I’m too far away to notice.
Why am I afraid of loving? Of being loved too much, or too little? Today I can’t do anything but fix myself dinner and stare at the newspaper. Can’t do anything but not think of you.
A brisk Christmas Eve walk
through the most silent night of all
under the dimming brow of dusk
a lampshade pulled over the clouds
Your love lingering in teardrops
evaporating from my jacket shoulder
Goodbye, sweetheart. You told me
There are worse things to cry about
Throw open the curtains of fear and doubt–
your eyes take in your future as they look out.
The window glass heavy and tainted with time,
the Three Fates are weaving line after line.
Breathe in bright hope and hold your lungs full,
for resignation calls out with a leaded-hand pull.
Ask fire from your lovers and strength from your friends,
for none of us knows if this fear ever ends.
You found out the hard way:
I struggle to love.
I shirk from opening
myself up. Armor amassed
from lingering blows.
Only time and the old scars know.
My tears are tales
I need to let go.
Your loyalty guides me
like tracks in the snow.
Your hands are warm;
the touch sets me aglow.
Time will show us the way to go.
The lonely hawk cut me hard and deep.
I still hear the voices in my sleep.
Your whispering quiets
my fearful heart.
Say you’ll stay near me,
not split me apart.
Teach me to adore you;
sing the song of your soul.
I’ll let my love down
like a weeping willow.
my God, what if
he is surrounding my heart this minute
as I scratch a poem down hurriedly
on a diner napkin while he’s in the restroom
what if he’s building up his life around me
brick by solid brick
if I wake up one foggy morning
two years from now and say,
“I can’t imagine a day without him”
what if he breaks me down so badly
my muscles stop working and
I can’t even cry
my God, what if his loyalty heals me
so completely, I forget how to hate
how will I survive such
a fierce love