restless twenty year old nights call to mind
warm sixteen year old ones,
running barefoot in the driveway,
sitting silent on the porch,
resting my head
on the shoulder of a boy
i thought i could predict.
at sixteen, i thought the best thing about the world
was that i did not have to participate in it –
i thought to shut my mouth and close my ribs
was a certain kind of honor.
i am reaching, reaching, reaching back to that girl,
wondering why she chose to throw all her joy away,
wondering if she knows
how much she must
how important it is
to learn how to care again.
if i could say one thing to danielle circa 2012
i would tell her to
buckle her seatbelt,
i would tell her to
remember the boy in the hospital bed.
i would tell her that
learning to open her chest again is
entirely worth the night she will spend
sobbing on the highway at 1 am.
i would tell her
to stop putting people in boxes,
i would say
to write more poems
that aren’t about dying.
twenty four year old danielle
will write a poem to me,
and maybe she will say
there’s a big storm
she’ll sing sonnets to
the love and loss
that will one day buckle my knees
and send me running
and maybe it’s okay
that i don’t have a raincoat.
maybe that’s just
how it goes.
men see me as a white canvas,
pure and holy, but best of all
two eyes like projection screens.
a mouth - it doesn’t say much
but it laughs at their jokes.
thin wrists to wrap
whole hands around.
sometimes they peel back my skin
wedge hands between the muscle and bone
scrape out my tissue with
looking to fit a fist
around my heart.
they expect the same thing:
one empty ventricle,
ready and wanting
so instead of giving them my heart,
i take a box
and paint it red.
the keepers are
the ones who
know the difference
sometimes i really believe that all that i am
is a girl who was once loved -- but
i’m done pretending that's
the beginning and end of me.
maybe the best moments of my life
happened in your passenger seat
and maybe they didn’t,
who’s to say?
i’m done pretending i have any certain ideas
about what’s coming
i haven’t driven by the hospital in months
because i still get the same sinking feeling in my stomach
when i walked out for the last time and
left you behind, hooked up to a million machines.
this town is dotted with little heartbreaks, places
where you left a mark on me,
and sometimes it’s just easier
so i left. a summer in new jersey
was never quite what i planned,
which is fitting, since none of this was.
i'd be lying if i never said
that with every step i take
away from you
my head gets a little clearer,
my smile gets a little more
and maybe this is just how
healing is supposed to work.
maybe this is just how
deserts are crossed
and mountains are climbed;
step by step.
mornings are for the beach:
and singing in the underpass,
the clearest i can hear myself
peeking out under baseball caps
and sneaking around town
as if i don’t live here anymore,
which i guess i don’t
staring too hard at the sky
and sometimes-nighttime escapes
driving in cars that aren’t mine;
going around, going nowhere,
and everywhere: choked by
memories in every place we ever went,
making this place feel like less of a home
and more like a crime scene
i do not know how to stop feeling haunted
there are suitcases at the end of the bed
and none of them are mine,
the ghost of you is teaching me
how to run.
and – what, you thought i would stay
just to watch you be in love with her?
just to live in the knowledge
that you no longer want me?
you thought i would stay for that?
maybe i am that masochistic,
maybe i really did love you.
but maybe some people can love
without drawing lines,
putting up walls.
and maybe i
i used to write poems about our reunion
in some brooklyn cafe
before i knew what distance between us
no matter how many times it happens,
i am amazed at the capacity of human beings
to grow together
and grow apart.
what i’m trying to say is,
i miss you.
i used to connect the dots of your freckles
while you spent hours
coaxing food into my stubborn
i was restless and cynical and
i would never tell you when anything was wrong
you had more patience with me
than i deserved
i’ve been convincing myself for years
that you’re nothing more
than an old wound,
but the truth is
there’s a part of me that won’t ever make sense
unless someday, somehow
i see you again.
there is a small place in my heart
that has never stopped
(and i can’t quite convince it
that you are irretrievably gone)
so maybe it isn’t wrong,
maybe one day
we’ll find our way together
and you’ll have grown our your beard
and i’ll have cut off my hair
and i swear
maybe you’ll be wearing
those old jeans
and we’ll talk about the way
i used to untie your shoelaces
under the lunch table
(as if i wouldn’t still
drop everything and marry you
if you would
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