This poem is a love poem. But every love poem is tangled with memories. The truth is, love cannot exist without the past, without those softest parts inside us, and so love is now even harder and yet even more necessary.
If you’ve ever stood on an empty stage
faced a semicircle of quiet waiting, swelling
fingers turned to triggers on water guns
throat stuffed with a sudden litter of paper tongues
tried to play the flute
then you know how I feel, she says.
she opens her lips and spits
mucused music all over the floor
licks up these accidental notes from shoulders
of wine glasses and dresses cut too low
she’s trying hard to be happy with just being alive
but lately she’s started counting tomorrows
like socks left in the drawer.
she laughs at friends that still wake up
with pink in their cheeks
the ones who pick love from their teeth like plaque
but she hasn’t been to the dentist in two years and six months
she won’t tell anyone, but
she likes to watch things grow.
sometimes he speaks in bird songs.
she collects the feathers that fall from his mouth
tucks them inside books to keep her place
but they get lost in her purse, slip between bus seats
and when she needs to
she can’t ever seem to find her place.
once she tried to paint him, just to get him out of her head
but he grew too large for one canvas to hold
so there were bits of him shoved in closets
wedged in doorways
leaned against tables
sitting in the arms of chairs.
last night she told him that the future is a plastic hanger
the cheap kind that the dry cleaner gives away
covered in paper and colored with lies like
We value your business or
Hope you have a nice day.
But he doesn’t like when she talks in gray
and so that night she pulled all his clothes from the closet
and threw the empty hangers out the door.
he says at the end of this road lies a broken heart
but her heels are raised two inches thick with smashed hearts
and she’s never been impressed with things that lie at the ends of roads
so she’s rubbing her knuckles raw with
searching for words in her skin.
She says, if you’ve ever ducked down into creek water
black as the bellies of olives
so dark you don’t know if your toes are shoved in sand
or tangled in the flesh of a snake
where spirits of last night’s dead mingle
in the arms of newborn cayman
if you ever duck down into that creek water,
she says, and then
open your eyes
then you’ll know how this feels.
Now I am going to share some orginial writing. First, I will share some unfinished pieces, and throughout the day I will continue to add new writing as well as highlight the work of some of my favorite writers. This poem, like all the work I’ll be sharing throughout the day, is a work in progress.
she was born with a caterpillar cocooned inside her heart
and on Sunday it ate three apples
and when you touched a finger to her walls
it spread its wings and crumbled her bones like chalk
but there is nothing more beautiful than ruins
the sun setting on fingers of stone
bent to touch the wet ground
in the twilight everything is gold
you said, darling, we can build sculptures here
sell souvenir postcards with cute lines like
at least the weather was nice!
we can settle here
in the shade of crumbled rock
we can dig in the mud and find shards of what was
concoct stories about the fingers that touched
these bits of pink plastic and broken pencils
dirty sneakers and peels of yesterday.
and maybe if the butterfly can learn to bend its wings
to shrink back into the belly of its cocoon
then maybe it can go to sleep and wake up a caterpillar again
a body of soft jelly that can crawl inside her
and stay forever buried in her labyrinth of veins.