After

You approached me after my set
in the way I knew you would.
Head down, quiet.
Timid.

You complimented my writing.
Described the ways you
liked my first piece,
the one with the numbers.
I wrote it knowing you would.

I wanted to know what it felt like
to sit and watch me
as I stood in the light
reading words meant
for your ears alone.

You didn't offer me
feelings and
you didn't describe
what it was like
hearing poetry
clearly written
for you.

I looked to you
as I
read my last piece
to observe your reaction.

You looked sad
and serious
and you were leaning
into
each word I spoke.

You got the message.
And pulled away,
as I thought you would.

I still hoped.
I hoped you would feel
inspired
to wrap me in your
arms
to make peace
with the feelings between us.

I hoped
you’d say something to
challenge my perspective
on what happened
and did not happen
between us.

I offered the chance,
multiple opportunities.
I hung around until you left.
I made myself available
as I did from the moment
I introduced myself to you.

“Your writing is beautiful,”

you said.

I know. I know it is.
My mind is, too.

T-shirt

I’m thinking of
how it felt
waking up to the sunrise
in a room that wasn’t my own.
 
I watched it rise higher
as I thought of the night before
how magic was made,
co-created with quick wit,
intimacy,
hearing the stories of
the rocks and art in your room.
 
I tried to rest,
and when sleep wouldn’t take me,
I reached across you
for the cup of water on your nightstand.
You startled awake.
 
I rose from the bed to leave.
We talked lightly as I
put my clothes on.
 
I don’t remember the words you used
or the tone in your voice
when you instructed me to
leave the shirt
I had borrowed to sleep in.
 
And I think in that moment I knew
I wouldn’t be back in this room
or in that bed
or under the two blankets
sleeping next to you without
a pillow because you only had one.
 
I took the T-shirt off and
didn’t listen to your explanation
of what it meant to you
and don’t remember if
I even asked
or if I said
something funny to blunt
how it felt being told
to leave this piece of you.
 
It was in that short sentence
I realized
you didn’t want any loose ends.
I would be a temporary connection,
an afterthought.
 
Now looking back
at a moment meant to mean nothing
but charged with more than
I could’ve grasped in the
fog of alcohol,
I wonder what it is
that T-shirt means to you.
 
Maybe you just like it.
It’s vintage and cool
and worn and
it looks like its traveled and
I loved the way it felt when I put it on.
 
When I took it off it felt cold and
used and I
wanted to tell you that I
didn’t want to take it from you
in the first place.
 
And in hindsight I know
that the t-shirt didn’t fit,
it wasn’t mine to wear.
Maybe the contrast of it on me
was too telling.
Maybe it was clear just how much
it did not belong to me.
 
It was that simple request
to leave what was yours
exactly where you wanted it
that led me to hear
what you have said from the start.
 
In the end,
I’m thinking
of how it felt
waking up to the sunrise
in a t-shirt that wasn’t my own.
 
I liked
wearing something
important to you and
although it was temporary
I liked how it felt.
I liked who I was in that t-shirt.

you were what I called home

I often wonder if you
remember the falling.
It felt like coming home to me.
Until the inevitable
came like the change of seasons,
we turned
unrecognizable.
 
The memory of what was
comes to me in flashbacks.
We grew up together in
hushed,
private moments
navigating the wax and wane
of an intimacy too mature
for what we could know of it.
 
I was 13 the first time you
threatened it.
I was 14 when you really tried.
 
The in between is what I remember most.
The scent of your
black Pink Floyd hoodie,
smelling of your mom's cigarette smoke
and Tide detergent.
 
Like something out of our control
what was once supportive and pure
turned toxic.
Expectations became chains.
You told our friends stories.
They called me a whore.
 
I learned to lie and manipulate.
Dishonesty
felt safer than
truth-telling.
The alternative
lead to an abuse
I still hear my own
voice use against me
13 years later.
 
Slowly I
lost myself in the sensation
of becoming nothing
beyond the pleasing
and the apologies.
 
Love and safety became
foreign and unattainable.
I sometimes avoid turning my
phone on ring
it reminds me of the time you called
so I’d hear every sound
of what you said I led you to do.
 
Now I exist in nights
that come
after a day of supporting others
and I wonder if love
is something
only other people can experience.
 
You tried to escape life
and left me holding the responsibility
in hands that I still
wash raw trying
to make peace with the shame.
 
I try to find new ways
in relating to others
and still find myself
staring into
hands
that do what they can
with what they know.
 
Now they aim to heal
rather than defend,
to absorb love
 
and yet
 
I was taught to swallow whole
the blame
to hold the responsibility
to jump to conclusions
before I am surprised with
another blow.
 
I'm now just beginning to
understand
that my home is meant to be
stable
and consistent in its
giving and receiving.
My home is meant to
grow rather than deplete.
 
What am I to do
when home
crumbles
from the very touch
of my own hands
scratching
at the surface
of love?
 

I wrote this for you

I had hoped you’d hear me

through my vulnerability.

And when you did not return

my heart’s song,

I kept writing

until the pleasing

and the taking care of your feelings

were left in my seat.

I found myself at the microphone’s end.

I heard the music I

so long have

worked to create.

I like the sound of my own melody

more than your inconsistent beats.

Ghosts

I won’t convince you either way.
You decided this
before you met me.

I picture
the ghosts
that may reside in your heart,
ones you haven’t made peace with.

I hope you find enough ground
to feel safe letting another in.
It seems that
in keeping people at a distance
they leave in the end.

A self-fulfilling prophecy.

Perhaps you said those things
to be kind.
Or maybe they were your truth.
At any rate,
I wish your
heart
had room for me.

I’m no exorcist.
My light
shines too bright sometimes
in dark corners.
I can’t dim it.
Not even for you.

After I left your place,
I went to the water.
I’m not ready to
walk with this,
knowing our brief
encounters are over.

I sit in the heaviness of it,
equally as freeing for me,
as I know we negotiated
the best we could.

At the water I release
ghosts of my own.
I see them for what they are.

Some hope goes with them.
I see you with clear eyes.
Kind and gentle.
Perhaps lost in your own head.
Unsure, tempted and fearful.

I can’t pull out of you
words I’d like to hear.
I can’t hope you’ll become
something you are not.

Despite the release,
I'd like to believe
you won’t become
yet another ghost
my words try their best
to understand.

Unveiled

I really thought you were different.
Healthy, even.
Did I pursue you
because you were unavailable, too?

I felt your words had
emotion behind them.

Maybe I wasn’t
listening deeply enough.
Maybe I heard
what I wanted to hear.