I picture them in a balmy hallway,
far-corner huddled; quietly, urgently
comparing their notes on ways I have loved.
They'll laugh at lame jokes and avoid eye contact,
each surprised by their own awkwardness.
One of them will quip the term
and immediately wish he hadn't.
The rest will kindly ignore it.
The moment will pass.
They will slowly shed their discomfort.
They will remove their coats.
Sweat will bloom at collars
and trace knotty bumps of spine before
pooling into the space between
boxers and belt.
They won't openly discuss the
that accompanies the lazy river evenings spent drifting down the same mind-
but the tension pulling across
each of their jaws
will announce loud and clear
how frustrating it has
been to be cropped,
tucked in, paper fortune teller folded
and wrapped up into someone else’s idea of poetry.
then all at once,
they will get started.
Printed pages will uncoil from backpacks,
phones will emerge from pockets
and fingers slightly shaking
will chase the letters
of my name through search engines.
My sticky poems will fan out across floorboards.
They will lower their bodies carefully, not quite kneeling,
(and without mention of the bad knees they happen to share.)
They'll hover above each piece of evidence
and their eyes will crash along titles and memories-
they'll read with raised
eyebrows and pretend as if
they don't already know
each poem, each quick dig, by heart.
When they start claiming
and denying pieces
they will do so lightly
and without judgment.
'This piece is about you and the dry, delicate
tissue-shell of skin
she held out for you after you told
her to shed.
But this piece- this piece is about me
and the messy ointment
that ruined her clothes and
stained her blankets.
A doctor instructed she
apply the ointment to her hands
twice a day to treat
the burns my silence left
across her arms and throat.'
They will share a bit of rage,
A bit of regret.
A bit of shame, perhaps.
They will either miss me intensely
or not at all.
They will either own up
to the poems they begat
or begin refuting.
They don’t want any of
this chilly weight on their soul.
They didn’t sign up for this, I know that.
They didn’t set out to rock me,
nor to dig down deep and get to my China.
I was happy to share, to whisper and recite blurry
morning confessions and epiphanies.
I was right behind them running toward the sand dunes,
waving a shovel and pail.
But I can’t feel bad either.
You all must have known:
If you happen to fall for a girl
who writes you must realize
that every smile you put on her face,
every stray hair you’ve pushed back from her eyes,
and quick habit she starts to crave
is fair game.
If a girl who writes happens to fall for you too--
You will find echoes of the way your souls fit and fought
together until she has nothing left to feel on the subject;
(and you must be well aware
she's tidal, her feelings are icecaps,
they are melting but will trickle fresh
and renewed for centuries to come.)