I was in first grade when they taught us the definition of love,
noun: an intense feeling of deep affection.
My teacher went around the room asking for examples
of what love meant to each of us,
"Love is when my mommy cuts the crust off my sandwiches",
"Love is when my brother lets me pick the TV show",
"Love is when I got sick and the whole class made me a 'get well' card".
When my turn came around,
I couldn't find the courage to speak up,
instead, a stream of tears slid down my face.
At six years old, I felt everything too deeply.
In the sixth grade, I would sit in the back of my class,
and scribble metaphors between pages of notes,
"Love is a burning building with no fire escapes",
I was searching for a way to say that I was drowning,
I was looking for validation, for someone to tell me life was
more than just math quizzes and scientific formulas.
Instead, I got referred to the school therapist.
"Flunking out of your classes isn't poetic."
At twelve years old, I felt everything too deeply.
In my last year of high school,
they asked us to write an essay about our futures,
where we saw ourselves in 5 years,
Everyone around me erupted in giggles about their dreams of college and marriage and stability.
The girl in front of me could hardly contain herself,
"I'm going to be a mother- two boys and a girl if I get my way. How about you?"
I contemplated telling her I didn't plan on making it that far,
that I had lost my passion for the future a long time ago,
but I knew what kind of answer she was looking for.
"I want to be a writer."
I dropped out the next day.
At seventeen, I felt everything too deeply.
It's been six years,
The floor of my apartment is littered with crumpled pages on ink-stained carpet.
I am still alive,
only because I haven't found the right words to leave behind.
This is my legacy,
empty beer bottles filled to the brim with stale cigarette butts,
a collection of lines and stanzas laced with two decades of uncertainty.
If I saw my first grade teacher again, I would tell her that to me,
love is getting out of bed for the first time this week,
I would tell my middle school therapist that flunking out is the most poetic thing I've ever done,
I would send the girl from class a book of obituaries I wrote for myself,
At twenty-three years old, I don't feel anything at all.