5 more minutes

Partway thru and
I begin to grit my teeth into the pain
I can take 5 more minutes
3 more
1 more

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

20 minutes

Let’s split up.
She says it without malice or force,
and the words fall like
an act of kindness.

Warmth drains from his cheeks
into the wind; the red rock surrounding them
absorbs the dying light. His heart
a painful fist.

Then she
is handing him
the keys to the Honda
and saying 20 minutes,
and tilting her head in question

Air finds his lungs,
expand, contract
oxygen, CO2
in, out
rhythmic footfalls like a pulse
rinse the panic from his veins
nodding away the fear
20 minutes

With You

With you I am silent- I curl into the S of your body
and linger over the pounding rhythm beneath your skin.

With you I am hesitant- drifting like a balloon released
from a child’s grip, aloof and straying too far away.

With you I am magical- my incantations will drip and slide
across the bedsheets to widen your eyes.

With you I am bitter- incessantly licking my wounds,
dredging up venomous words that I wanted forgotten.

With you I am timid- slowly swallowing my inadequacies,
tucking each fault under my coat to study later, alone.

With you I am famished- tearing at your silky hair
with desperate shaking hungry hands.

With you I am safe- layered in our whispers of faith,
awash in your breath like soft salty waves.

Ache

I don’t feel like there is something beautiful
inside me trying to get out.
It’s not as if there’s a monarch
lodged in my throat, or a line of rubies set
beneath my breastbone.

It’s more like I have an ache, deep,
near my spinal cord, or maybe my kidneys,
and I have to stretch and twist and rub at it
like an old man does his arthritic knuckles.

Aspirin is useless for that type of pain,
the kind that sometimes wakes you right before dawn
or stabs you square in the gut
when you’re chatting on the sidewalk with friends
and suddenly a person walks by with their head down,
tilted, a private smile on their face
and you fall in love for just a moment.

I write to that spot.
My poems address the ache, press into it a little
and release, let the flesh bounce back into place.
It helps, you know. It helps in the way
you tell a child to turn off his lamp
specifically because he’s afraid of the dark.

Just a Dream

I dreamt of you last night
and awoke today with the crashing
waves of anger turning me white-hot
Your words still spilling
from that deep charred place
Me bitter like black coffee,
rousing myself heavy from bed
jaw sore from grinding, gnashing

Unsure if I want to dissolve
or combust; slip back to sleep
or sprint to the moon

It’s just a dream, I have to breathe
I have to remember
and let go
and stop
hoping
you’ll
call