I almost wrote about you on the subway but then
I remembered that I’ve been trying to find new things
to write about. I guess what I’m trying to say is that
whenever I look at your photo now,
taped inside my journal at a haphazard angle
with the corners peeled from touching it so much,
the ache of missing you is enough to fill an entire
ocean with all the butterflies from my stomach.
Sometimes I think about calling you
and listening to the dial tone on the other end
as a substitute for your breath, but then listening
was never really a synonym for being there.
Yesterday I saw an elderly man hand a prostitute
a bouquet of daffodils on the street
instead of money for sex. And I know that you
never liked my blue moods because they were too close
to bordering on cerulean, but suffice it to say
that the gesture made me feel like tearing up,
not because they were flowers or the man probably
had about five years left to live, but because
it reminded me of how you always kept giving me love
in the most unexpected ways.
Sometimes I wonder when it was
I last saw you.
I don’t mean having you before me,
because you linger so often
I forget I can’t see you.
I wonder if you still see your reflection,
if you miss it.
Many times we’ve tried
to get a word in between spaces.
Instead, I gesture to where a pulse should be
and wait. There is a hiss,
the last end of a bout of rain,
There was a time you recall
being thicker than the wind. It’s strange
to say that’s how I remember you:
you had a laugh that went on for days.
How odd to say it
for someone who has never left.
Sometimes I wonder when it was
I first saw you.
Your eyes are grey today. I trust
I remember otherwise.
1. You said you had depression. On the rainy days I brought an umbrella for you to walk under.
2. You had OCD. I counted all 288 heartbeats with you until we both fell asleep.
3. You had anxiety disorder. I held my breath until you finally took one.
4. When I felt sad and you couldn’t comfort me because you had Asperger’s, I understood what your shaking hands meant anyway.
5. When you were so frustrated and bored because of the ADHD, I held your face in my hands and made you look into my eyes for thirty seconds straight, until you could see how much I loved you.
6. The bipolar disorder picked you up one minute and threw you down the next. For the mania, we celebrated with cake. For the depression, I held you until it passed and you were okay again.
7. You wouldn’t eat anything for breakfast, lunch, or dinner because of the eating disorder. I fed you your favorite kind of chocolate when you were ready, bite by bite, and we went for a run afterward.
8. The door always scared you when it slammed too hard because of the PTSD; I covered the edge with rubber so it wouldn’t bang against the wall so loudly.
9. Your self-destructive tendencies made it hard to breathe sometimes, so I hid every needle, razor, and pair of scissors in the house, then made you pinch me as hard as you could very time you had the urge to hurt yourself.
10. Despite everything, I still loved you more than I’d ever loved anyone else in the entire world.
I dreamed of a house by the sea, so white
it was no dream.
The summer night was so divinely clear
summer had long since gone.
I saw my love stand in the doorway,
saw her I had forsaken.
I dreamed of a house by the sea, so white,
of my love and the summer night
though it was very long ago
and though it was no dream.
translated from the Danish by Patrick Phillips
from When We Leave Each Other: Selected Poems, Open Letter, 2013.
She will remember dark eyes
the scruff to his cheeks, slender arms and legs
a tattoo on his thigh, the sun
in all its passion, deep blue, pale flesh at the center
how the sound of her name was a new word
from his mouth
She will remember the scent of leather and sweet musk
the salt of his skin, his hand against her thigh
how she saw, more than heard him moan
the slight up-movement of his adams apple
the skin on his throat tight around it, his head tossed back
how he tasted his own passion, spilled on her skin
She will remember that he called her Goddess
the circle of his arms in the dark, the hum of the air conditioner
the sudden one-ness of a Vermont hotel room
her blossoming there in the comfortable blur of night
the sweetness of his mouth, the kiss, the drifting off
She will remember the morning
alcohol and music worn away to a dull headache
the shade opened, the light turned on
how he had already dressed
but found her, naked under the sheet
his soft voice
pressed into her neck,
and his whisper
that he wanted her
Cheri L. Roberts
This lost person I loved. Loved for a hundred years.
When I find her. Find her in a forest. In a cabin
under smoke and clouds shaped like smoke. When I find her
and call her name (nothing) and knock (nothing)
and build a machine that believes it’s God and the machine
calls her name (nothing) and knocks (nothing).
When I tear the machine down and she runs from the cabin
pointing a gun at my memories and telling me
to leave, stranger, leave, man of hammers.
When I can’t finish that story. When I get to the gun
pointed at my head. When I want it to go off.
When everything I say to anyone all day long
is bang. That would be today. When I can’t use her name.
All day long. Soft as cotton, tender as kiss. Bang.
from Elegy Owed
My breasts are small and my eyes round.
Your legs long and cool as the freshet
that runs down from the fountain.
I bite your neck,
it’s sturdy, still not yet ripe,
like a walnut that has just now fallen.
You clamber on top, start kissing my middle,
strew wet wavelets all over my skin,
now up here, now down there,
like the first fat drops to fall before
the storm starts, splat, splat, splat.
We’ve gone to sleep back to chest,
the way lips rejoin
translated from the Basque by Elizabeth Macklin
from Meanwhile Take My Hand (Graywolf Press, 2007)
“You Were You Are Elegy”
Mary Jo Bang
Fragile like a child is fragile.
Destined not to be forever.
Destined to become other
To mother. Here I am
Sitting on a chair, thinking
About you. Thinking
About how it was
To talk to you.
How sometimes it was wonderful
And sometimes it was awful.
How drugs when drugs were
Undid the good almost entirely
But not entirely
Because good could always be seen
Glimmering like lame glimmers
In the window of a shop
Things Never Last Forever.
I loved you. I love you. You were.
And you are. Life is experience.
It’s all so simple. Experience is
The chair we sit on.
The sitting. The thinking
Of you where you are a blank
To be filled
In by missing. I loved you.
I love you like I love
All beautiful things.
True beauty is truly seldom.
You were. You are
In May. May now is looking onto
The June that is coming up.
This is how I measure
The year. Everything Was My Fault
Has been the theme of the song
I’ve been singing,
Even when you’ve told me to quiet.
I haven’t been quiet.
I’ve been crying. I think you
Have forgiven me. You keep
Putting your hand on my shoulder
When I’m crying.
Thank you for that. And
For the ineffable sense
Of continuance. You were. You are
The brightest thing in the shop window
And the most beautiful seldom I ever saw.
There are scars I am not ashamed of: the perfectly spaced series of eight raised dots from my beloved cat who was frightened and leaped from my arms, digging his claws into my shoulder; the tiny mark on my left cheek from when the dermatologist thought a spot to be cancerous; the line stretching from upper thigh to knee from slipping while climbing a holly tree against the rules, a mark six-year-old me explained as being from a pirate when my parents noticed; the ± on my index finger from unknown origins. It’s when someone, usually a boy running his fingers along my arm, calls me out on the spider web of silver — almost invisible most days I like to believe — that I feel the blush of shame. A long time ago, a long story, I explain, though I should not have to, betrayed by my body and its willingness to divulge my secrets.
I call you months after we have stopped being lovers – did you know there’s a pattern on my hips, I ask, having noticed the pale marks for the first time while dressing. Yes, you reply as if it were it were no matter because you loved me, yes, as if you accepted me then and now, and I think of your hands gentle on my hips, your lips brushing the scars I didn’t remember making, the hatred I half-forgot I had –- the scars that you saw and accepted before I even knew I had them, before I could be ashamed, before I knew you’d love me anyway and for long after.
This is where the evening splits in half, Henry, love or death. Grab an end, pull hard, and make a wish.