I am not the first person you loved.
You are not the first person I looked at
with a mouthful of forevers. We
have both known loss like the sharp edges
of a knife. We have both lived with lips
more scar tissue than skin. Our love came
unannounced in the middle of the night.
Our love came when we’d given up
on asking love to come. I think
that has to be part
of its miracle.
This is how we heal.
I will kiss you like forgiveness. You
will hold me like I’m hope. Our arms
will bandage and we will press promises
between us like flowers in a book.
I will write sonnets to the salt of sweat
on your skin. I will write novels to the scar
of your nose. I will write a dictionary
of all the words I have used trying
to describe the way it feels to have finally,
finally found you.
And I will not be afraid
of your scars.
I know sometimes
it’s still hard to let me see you
in all your cracked perfection,
but please know:
whether it’s the days you burn
more brilliant than the sun
or the nights you collapse into my lap
your body broken into a thousand questions,
you are the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.
I will love you when you are a still day.
I will love you when you are a hurricane.
warm enough for you to walk without a jacket
along your favorite path. The rhythmic shushing
of your feet through fallen leaves should be
enough to quiet the mind, so it surprises you
when you catch yourself telling off your boss
for a decade of accumulated injustices,
all the things you’ve never said circling inside you.
It’s the rising wind that pulls you out of it,
and you look up to see a cloud of leaves
swirling in sunlight, flickering against the blue
and rising above the treetops, as if the whole day
were sighing, Let it go, let it go,
for this moment at least, let it all go.
I remember your collarbone, forming the tiniest
satellite dish in the universe, your smile
as the place where parallel lines inevitably crossed.
Now dinosaurs freeze to death on your shoulder.
I remember your eyes: fifty attack dogs on a single leash,
how I once held the soft audience of your hand.
I’ve been ignored by prettier women than you,
but none who carried the heavy pitchers of silence
so far, without spilling a drop.
and it comes out as an apology.
I’m sorry. You want it to be bolder, bigger, less pathetic.
‘Love’ has become a fighting word for us.
You argue that you love me more. I don’t object.
I turn over in bed, sob into the pillow, pity myself.
I mumble it back to you because you
like the way it sounds coming out of my mouth.
We’ve turned caring for each other into a duty dance
that’s cheapened ‘love.’
It has become another way of apologizing
as you roll your eyes and say, ‘Sorry, I forgot to buy milk’,
a habit with every evening’s, ‘Night, love you too’,
a promise we keep breaking:
‘Of course I won’t, I love you’,
It hits me that we no longer know what it means
when you slap me across the face and instantly,
I tell you I love you. I can’t help it.
I have spent months associating it with this much pain.
My insides are bullet-holed basins where the past goes to die.
I feel death when you stand close.
Stay away from me.
I love you.