living room floor

I kept my winter coat wrapped 
around me
like it would
be ripped
from my body.

Walking into your house,
I could taste the lingering
cigarette smoke.

When 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 our 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.

As if planned,
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
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.

In the next room

In one room
my grandmother begs for peace.
She cries for her mother,
screams in confusion and pain.
 
In the kitchen, he cooks dinner alone.
Smelts, fresh bread, salad, a beer.
I watch my grandfather as he moves
quiet and purposeful.
 
He fries the fish as he holds back tears.
He hears his wife cry out in pain.
His own is angry, frustrated.
He tells me,
 
“this was not supposed to happen.
This is not how I imagined the end.”
 
He sits at the kitchen table
the Steelers’ game plays in front of him
He does not notice me watching
as he drizzles hot sauce on his meal.
 
He turns, sensing me behind him,
tells me to grab a plate.
I do, knowing this is an important offering.
 
He fixes me dinner,
too many smelts than I can stomach,
salad, and bread.
I begin to eat silently next to him
 
This is his language of love.
 
He gets up suddenly
grabs a glass from the cupboard
pours half of his beer in the glass.
He hands it to me.
 
I drink. I take him in.
I say nothing. Because I know
he needs this. He needs me
to be silent with him, to eat
the food he has made
to accept what love
he has left to give.
 
To do something
anything.

Burn

There is pain
at the center of my chest
it reaches for cold,
anything to soothe the fire
you had no intention of lighting.

Tell me,
what is the antidote
to loneliness?
To rejection?

You do not reach out.
It hurts more than if
you’d simply write
to tell me
I am not the one for you.

I am burning, burning,
don’t you see?

Moments and meaning and time
swirling around,
wasted.

Wasted on
thinking of a love
that never began
or lasted
long enough
for it to burn.

Reflections on the expectation of loss

There’s something 
incredibly sad
in the meeting
of new people.

There's a weight that forms
with all that comes with
the give and take,
the sharing.

There’s so much that can be lost.

If I didn’t meet you
I wouldn’t know
that I’d miss
the way you appreciate
the art on my walls
or how you
talk about
the flowers of Pennsylvania.

I wouldn’t know
what it feels like
to be touched by you.

Anticipatory grief
is my way of preparing
for the sadness that comes 
despite the joy 
and the gains.

In the midst of pleasure,
there’s a part of me
that prepares for the end
as soon as something begins.

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.