I cannot know

if his love danced
in romantic tones
and heartfelt song

He has no language 
no words to describe
beyond survival
and necessity

the love he 
holds in his
worn and worried
heart

I've had to sense it
uncover it
decipher and hold 
it had to be felt 

I was forced outside
of literal interpretations
there were no
words meant or 
used wastefully
in spurts of 
emotional wind 

Him
he uses no breath
excessively

Perhaps romance
is for those
who have time

He speaks of his first 
and last 
love
as if she 
was born of his
heart 

Inseparable 
intolerable
one and the same

it is confluence 
without 
codependence

I had to learn love
in actions
in crinkled smiles
in lasting impacts of 
fleeting, fragile emotion

love existed because
they made it so
in ways permanent 
and necessary
as the food and water
they offered freely 

in his chair
next to her bed
they sleep
and will sleep

because rest escapes him
when she is not there

meanings

I see meaning 
in the lovely
ways you
exist and
engage
in the world.

It's
in the way you
reminisce
about our first kiss
and the ramen noodle date
and the flirting that
grew to a
connection that
longed
for love.

It's
in the way you
sleep
on your stomach
one hand left open
for my own.

It's
your loving
touches
under the table
while we’re out
with our friends.

You called me
robust.
You called me
strong.

It's
the way you
don’t make fun
you do not dismiss
you support
and you encourage.

“I never want to let you go.”

I hope your words
mean as much to you
as they do
me.

I hope these loving
ways
mean what I
long for them
to mean.

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.