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?
 

Unexpected

I was hoping 
you’d be
unexpected.
 
I found you by chance
reading words written
by your own hand.
 
Sweet mannerisms.
I began to imagine
how you'd feel
moving with me,
creating something
with more than our minds.
 
Soon it became clear
this chance encounter
this unexpected meeting
my forwardness,
a story I’d like to fall into,
would not turn out as anticipated.
 
The result leaves me
feeling bewildered,
saddened
when the ending
unexpectedly changes.
 
I am left
still holding my pen
writing all that I hoped would be
even when evidence
so clearly indicates
a diverging plot.
 
And maybe the unexpected in this
will be more than
unfulfilled hope.
Perhaps I will discover
the art of listening,
accepting where you end
and I begin.
  
I will,
in the unexpected,
navigate voicing my own wants
I’ll attempt to let go
when my needs aren’t met,
and when my wants come second
to yours.

pour me out

I lose 10 pounds
cup size B sprouts.
My butt is flat compared to Rachael’s.
 
“You like Alec, don’t you?”
 
I soon learn
to confuse kindness
with flirting
and flirting
with withholding.
 
“You’re a tease.”
 
I’m 13.
I do not understand what
teasing means.
I was taught to smile
and be nice
when I don’t want to be.
 
The equation
no longer added up.
 
Hours drained on empty boys.
Touches and grabs and expectations.
I plucked and I shaved and waxed
I burned the skin on my upper lip.
 
To what purpose
to interest boys who used me
to fill their own bodies and minds.
They drained me as I topped them off.
 
I was
caught tangled
with men between my legs
filling me with
shame,
dichotomy of the feminine
the conservative.
 
My body
both me
and not me.
 
My breasts grew from birth control
boys looked at me 
as curves became their canvas
to judge.
 
At 12 blood ran
from my underwear
The aches from my empty womb
 
“You hooked up with Christian?”
 
I am 12.
I do not understand what
hooking up means.
 
The male gaze
framed me as lovely
until
my voice exposed
what was inside.
 
I remember
becoming more than a body.
 
“You care more about your career
than our future.”
 
At 26 I felt poured out
until I was dry
I had to replenish myself
I’ve learned to love my own taste.
 
I recognize the power of
kindness
intentional use of charm
of beauty
I have a choice in the version
I show of me.
 
At 27 my blood
holy water – filling
Life.

damaged lenses

Tonight street lights are the only stars.
A few burnt out and I do not see
the black ice on the sidewalk.
 
I fall
hit my head.
Shattered something in my eyes.
Grey turns into bursts
of red and blue
and all the things
that don’t make sense.
 
I ask two strangers,
 
“What does it look like?”
 
They tell me love is
orange and yellow normalcy.

I crawl to my car
reach for my glasses
in the glove compartment.
The colors fade and I’m seeing
for the first time
in 13 years.
 
Out loud I ask,
 
“What have you done?”
 
Sadness comes to me
petite and vulnerable
yearning to be seen.
 
She looks at me,
shakes her head.
The view shifts and I’m there.
I’m 13 and I’m falling.
I’m 14 and I’m calling his dad.
 
“Your son, he took pills.”
 
“What happened? Why did he do this?”
 
“I told him I didn’t love him anymore.”
 
I’m alone on my bedroom floor.
My mom listens outside my closed door.
She hears a flat tone in my voice
dissociated from the words I say.
 
“He did this because of me.”
 
My voice sounds older.
Older than 14.
Thick with pain and knowing.
 
I watch myself from the window sill.
I see the exact moment there’s a shift
in the eyes of a teenager.
 
It is then
I begin to believe I am responsible
for the feelings of others.
 
That love is torturous and painful
secretive and life-threatening
all-consuming.
 
It is this moment I believe
I am the victim
and love the betrayer.
 
The numbness of 14 consumes me.
The same feeling
that helped me dial the number
to tell his dad his son called
to say goodbye.
 
His dad is remarkably calm.
When I say these words
and that I was the reason for them.
 
A car beeps.
I startle and see a crack
in the glasses
that have sat in their case
for 13 years.
 
The frames are bent,
the lenses scratched and cloudy.
I remove them from my face,
fold them delicately in my lap.
 
I wait to feel.
Nothing comes.
 

Only

“I’ve only met you twice,”

he says sharply.

Only.

I feel badly for you.

You see,
I’ve only met you
in my daydreams
my fantasies
in my dreams you come to me.

I see you in my
projections
face you in the
ideas of the future
join you in images I create.

I talk to you in poems,
I feel you in the words.
I look for you in pictures.

“I’ve only met you twice,”

he says,
as if that’s reason
for why I should not care
that he has not met me
as deeply as I have met him.