living room floor

I kept my winter coat wrapped around me like it would be taken from me. Walking into your house, I could taste the lingering cigarette smoke. When the silence felt suffocating, we tried humor. Finally you asked for what we both knew I would not, perhaps could not, give. My feeling of resolve demanded my attention. I became aware that this time, this meeting, could not be kept afloat from half of myself given to you. I could not offer pieces and call that love. In that moment on the floor of the room where we both built and collapsed it was decided there would be no last time. I took responsibility for my own feelings. I took my healing seriously.

Almost as if we planned it, memories of the last 2 years played before us in the realization that I would no longer fit, these were patterns I could not sustain. I remembered the day you bought this house and we stained the floor and installed a new rug that we now baptize with the remnants of grief. We opened the door, gutted the house and attempted to restore what we could. As I went to leave, I did not look back in your direction. I left the key on the kitchen table. I left us on the living room floor.

I’ll look to the south

You are 
your favorite authors 
your beloved
literary characters.

I dive to understand
your mind 
and come up
breathless and more confused.

I seek refuge among
the clues you’ve given me
in memories a decade old.

I review the
drunken truths you let
slip that evening. 

I only get you
when your guard is down, 
broken in with substances
meant to numb you.

I just hope I find you
before you meet the same fate
as the characters you look to
to fill your lonely heart. 

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
as I stood in the light
reading words meant
for your ears alone.

You didn't offer me
feelings and
you didn't describe
your experience of
hearing poetry
clearly written
for you.

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

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

You got the message.
As quickly as you leaned in,
you pulled away.
Perhaps in the only way you could.

I still hoped.
I hoped you'd feel
inspired
to make space
for 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.

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?
 

Avoidance

I stay busy
so I don’t think of 
your empty touches,
your silence.

I fill my time
to learn what
healthy means.

There are some mornings
I turn off my alarm
because I can’t
sustain the busyness.

I succumb to thoughts of you
and I think of how to
be busy again.

Withdrawal interlude

Four days before the third month
I hear your voice.
We talk on the phone.
I shoot up - my heart fills.

We catch up.
I tell you the good.
You tell me the in between.

You abruptly end the call.
The withdrawal begins again.
I fall into my own tears.

The process of grief resets itself.

What’s its shape

“How’ve you been?” 

A dull stab to a stubborn wound. 
I share that 12 hours of my day are fulfilling.

I work,
I problem solve,
I learn.

I withhold the rest of it.
The aimless hours
ruminating 
on the could have beens
the losses.

It's when I'm alone the fear spreads.
Most days the void is tangible.
It’s shapeless.
I want to label it to know it fully.
I’d know its name and greet it warmly.

Loss spreads.
Grief grows.

I think too often of the last conversation.
The ending.
And when it all feels too deeply rooted
I'm reminded  
that the anxiety will find 
a different power source.
The sadness will attach to something new.

I begin to make peace with the idea
that I can still have you
in sadness and grief.
In honoring the memories.

And so I'll wait 
for the days in which
my heart feels less a part of your own.
When I stop visualizing
moving in unison.

Until then, they'll ask,

“How are you?”

“I’m doing great, thanks for asking,”

My heart,
my heart though.
My heart won’t know it’s own shape for some time.