we meet by accident, just kids, dandelions growing under our feet
everything bright and new, scrubbed clean
and even the moon, born again in the sky every night
sings to us, like it knows.
you run after trains and kiss me on porches
and i begin the slow, delicious process
of weaving myself into your hair.
every starlit night, every car ride
with the windows rolled down,
every night parked for hours in my driveway
kissing, bruising, touching
and later, the phone calls
studying and going to class
and doodling your name in the margins,
all of it, all of it
including sitting at the top of the library stairs
when you tell me it is over,
including the train ride in which
you say there is someone else,
including pressing my face into my hands
and sobbing on the ferry, months later,
because you say you love her.
we meet by accident, and it is the most beautiful kind:
full of shock and pain
and love and hope
and no, i wouldn't trade any of it,
even though i’m still picking pieces of myself off the floor,
one look from you is still enough
to send my blood
in a spiral,
even now, after all this time
i’m just trying to say thank you.
maybe that’s how this ends.
i’ve dated boys who didn’t make me laugh,
boys who took me to stuffy museums and bland restaurants
and told me i should be veiling my hair in church
i thought i was doing the right thing, i thought
my parents would be proud of me,
i thought maybe i could conjure up
some kind of feeling in my stubborn heart
that would make it worth my while,
everything i was always
supposed to want
i found you:
a boy who likes silly accents and sneakers and
telling jokes that turn me
into puddles at his feet,
who lives with his mother
and makes art from obscure things,
who paints just to get the words out and
never matches his clothes
bright eyes begging me to follow, making it up as we go along,
who needs the rule book, who has time to read?
and if there is a better way, we don’t need it;
we’ll take the mess. see,
we’re already there, and
if there is a better way, i wouldn’t know it
maybe neither of us are good people
and maybe i should have seen it coming
but it’s okay, for now
to be grateful for things like
sleeping through the night again,
for waking up in my own bed
and aren’t you glad
i stopped driving by your
house in the middle of the night?
there is nothing pure about the way i handled this
the truth is, i’ve spent too long romanticizing your loss
and too little time on how filthy your hands are,
touching anyone you please
with no regard for the fallout,
the consequences of a boy who can’t decide what he wants fast enough
to spare anyone pain.
you couldn’t even articulate the reasons
why you left me
and so i have no one to blame but myself:
this body you loved was not enough,
this mind, the girl (terrified) crouched at the controls
was not enough for you;
the consequences being
she threw herself at the first person who wanted her
because feeling wanted was the only way
and you might think you’ve got it all under control now,
a pristine life: job, car, family, girlfriend
but don’t think about the body of the girl you used to love
buried on the side of the highway
and the months and months of memories
you will not touch –
and i won’t think about
all the times i was
waking up in another man’s bed
because i wanted him to be you so badly
i left my dignity out of the deal
just love; just mess, trying
i can’t believe anyone was surprised
the truth is that my heart feels like it’s broken and blooming all at once.
the truth is, i thought you might be the one
to reach in and rescue me.
the truth is
i cannot stop watching you,
i don’t know what it is that you want.
i don’t know if i could give it to you
if i knew.
the truth is that it has taken a long time for the pieces of my heart to fit right in my chest.
the truth is, i was just beginning to feel strong
if only you knew how your smile has sent all my fault lines into a panic,
every inch of my body braced for the earthquake
bound to come, atoms
climbing into doorframes,
opening the bunkers.
even the way you put your hand in your pocket fucks me up. i can’t pretend anymore.
i’m not pretending.
the truth is i’d kill to put a stethoscope to your heart;
we can play doctor, two kids under the dinner table.
if you run out of here, full speed, i can’t promise i won’t follow.
the truth is,
i just want to know what comes next.
every little girl is taught the same thing:
the princess only gets the happy ending if she ends up with a prince.
that’s what every movie tells us,
that’s how we think the world works.
so the first time you like someone, you’re trembling and hopeful
and you’re ready for the love story
you think you’ve been promised.
but the first time you like someone
is clumsier and less glamorous than you thought.
the first time you like someone, you’re fourteen years old
and he kisses you in a basement, not a ballroom,
and your palms are sweaty
and his gum gets in your mouth.
the first time you like someone
you stutter over dinner with his parents
and pretend that you like meatloaf.
he tells you “you’re mine”
and it’s the first time you realize
you are something other people can own.
however, the first time you like someone
it knocks you breathless when he tells you that you’re beautiful.
it is awkward and halting and precious
and it doesn’t last.
the first time you love someone, you are nineteen
and he isn’t the person you were expecting.
but the first time you love someone
is the first time you understand
the meaning of the word selfless.
the first time you love someone
you sneak out of your house in the middle of the night
just to see him again.
you can’t believe how much bigger he has made your heart, as if
your entire ribcage cracked open just to make room for him
and the first time you love someone
is the first time you really like your body --
because he makes new all the parts of you
you thought could not be loved.
the first time you love someone,
you tell him so next to his hospital bed
and when he kisses you it feels like
you’re in that ballroom you had always pictured.
the first time you love someone
your love will be genuine and passionate and
everything you’ve ever wanted,
but it won’t be enough to make him stay.
you have to get drunk to be nice to me
and you have never called me beautiful.
i thought i was done with boys
who like to shut their women
in trophy cases,
yet here i stand.
when i fall silent
you keep talking,
you grab me without permission
and i cry on the drive home;
this is who we are.
everything is too calm, too sterile;
we are too polite, putting napkins on laps
like it means something,
you’re telling me the same story over again
and i’m nodding, again,
like it matters.
we make-believe love to forget
and we pretend that the kissing
you think i have forgotten
the person you replaced.
i play along,
as if i still don’t cry about him
in the shower.
maybe i stay because you aren’t asking much,
maybe i stay because i’m scared of what’s next,
maybe i stay because
is the only way to be numb.
you could say that i’m letting you win.
maybe it really is
here we are again, back where we started –
a girl, a mirror, hands cupped and
asking for something.
it’s an old story: i loved and i lost, i loved him and he left;
now i’m just left with two phantom limbs, a compass heart
that will not stop pointing to things
it cannot have.
i’m wiping off the spots on the mirror, trying to refocus,
wishing there was a better way, an easier way,
something more forgiving
than looking back on everything lost
and counting every blessed time
i used to be
enough for you.