what we gained
Even months later, we pause
Before embracing. We are wary
Of one another: the hurt we might carry,
The pain we could give.
It’s difficult to close the distance now,
To get in our cars and drive forward
Into a changing world;
To start again. What
Have we gained? We wasted so many months
Of warmth, lying awake in our beds,
Letting feelings become stagnant. We thought
About each other. About ourselves. And
When our loves expired, we left them
Sitting out in our front lawns. We watched them
Decompose from our windows. We let it go on
For too long: always inside, looking out.
We thought this was a way to live, a way
To keep ourselves safe, away
From connection. We shielded our hearts, wrapped
Our mouths, afraid to breathe other air: what
Have we gained? we implore of our
Cat, who seems to shrug, stretched in the sun.
Our empty words bounce off disinfected surfaces
& find their way back to us.
They always find their way back - so do
Our loves. Maybe in different forms, through text
Or email or carefully penned letter. Maybe from
Different people. Like stray pets, ragged & hungry,
They arrive for us, just as we’re wondering
If we’ll ever get back what we had before, realizing
We never asked for what we needed, exchanging peace
For a lifetime of trivialities.
Love, then, was the question -
The answer, it seemed, was pawing gently
At our front doors; waiting
To be let in.
postmodernism examines modern art
we collect around splatters of color like worshippers in church, stare
silently up at the miles of paint, turn our heads this way and that, try
to make sense of it.
the last time anything made sense i was doing a handstand
in an empty bathtub during a 7.0 magnitude earthquake,
and i feel kind of like that now,
except the blood isn’t rushing so fast to my head.
i think it is, in a metaphorical sense. i think i am having a
sympathetic nervous response except my eyes aren’t dilating.
i think i am a member of this church now, praying to the god of art
that something in this painting will speak to me
like rembrandt never could.
the first time i died i saw these same splatters, except
they were all one shade of red and nothing about them was artistic.
afterwards, i was reborn as a middle class family’s dog, and then as a chicken in a cage,
and then as a potted aloe plant, and then as myself. I think this is the
least satisfying existence i’ve had thus far. i’m
still waiting for it to mean something.
everyone else has left now. it’s been at least two hours
and they’re starting to turn off the lights, closing the place down. i think
i must be invisible because the guards haven’t said anything to me.
or maybe that’s because i’m a fly now(that would explain the double vision and the wings
on my back). I just wish i could be who i was before. nothing’s better than being a person,
i think. when you’re a person you’re allowed to make mistakes.
i’ve been in the air too long, so when they finally turn the lights off & the guards
leave, i settle onto my favorite blue paint splatter and doze off, wondering where
jackson pollock is now. most of all i hope that when he died he thought his life
meant something. maybe now he’s a person again and his existence is not so sad after
all. maybe he’s a fly like me, or maybe he’s really gone forever.
i wouldn’t know. don’t come to me for answers. i’m only a bug.
in the morning the lights come on again and i fly to the next painting, hovering
far above it so nobody sees me. today i worship in a different church.
tonight i die a different death.
on not being in love
you know how it feels to drive at night? how the
houses seem to change to shadows,
and, devoid of their daylight vibrance, they shift
in unfamilar circles around you?
think of all the places you've been. all the miles you've walked
filled with the sun, feeling one way
for one person all of the time, everywhere. and then
in the blink of an eye-- or, rather, over months of
distance and what your friends call growth,
it all begins to look different. but why?
you are lost in a crowd; you do not look for him
you are listening to music;; you feel far from him
you are writing;;; but not about him, now
& then you choose to let the sun back in,
through a different window. or you
learn to conjure it within, all by yourself.
but you cannot shake the feeling that something has changed.
that without him, there is a piece of the puzzle
you lost along the way; a piece of yourself
eternally stuck between couch cushions
and impossible to find.
loneliness sits in a chartreuse space, it
feigns happiness, its yellow-green brightness
weighs me down, I cannot hold it.
I rejoice in the dark red of alone
the nights to myself, oh the writing, the talking
out loud when no one can hear, but tonight
it folds in on itself, becomes a new color.
I cannot call it “mustard” or “dandelion”
for that implies it also has a shape, or a flavor,
when really it is nothing more than
years of empty heaviness and an impossibly ugly word:
chartreuse. I have begged for a comfortable gray,
but it does not hold comfort, holds only
all of the nights I wished that you were there
[with your sky blue shirt & worn black shoes] but
you weren’t. I’m afraid you never will be. not since
I’ve painted my house all the same shade of ambiguous yellow,
locked myself inside, told you to stop looking
for the chartreuse eyesore that sits just beyond
While floating in this dreamless space
I discover that time is a multi-faceted beast
too fickle to hold the weight of my many dimensions
disappearing continuously, melting, solidifying,
creating an unrecognizable blur
I have promised to live unapologetically:
done my best to eliminate regrets
erased the most disgusting parts of my past
but in nights like these, what else is there to ponder over?
I want to put a solid image to this feeling,
to evaporate into the comforts of a metaphor.
but tonight there is nothing left but honesty; I have no poetry
left in me. tonight there is nothing but a singular fear:
that I will die without having ever lived;
that I will fall asleep without anything beautiful
to dream about.
I am not a slam poet.
my words do not want to be devoured.
they sit like green bean casserole on your otherwise-empty plate,
asking to be picked at, played with,
eaten in small and delicate bites.
they do not apologize for what they are-
you may find them unappetizing, or simply boring
but they ask only to be read, and later digested,
perhaps leaving you with a somewhat pleasant feeling.
I cannot ask for even this-
-my words do not beg to be liked.
they do not stand up on stage and scream
I-LOVE-YOU, they do not wait for applause,
and perhaps you will find them discarded in the pit
after the orchestra has left.
they will not become youtube sensations,
they will not go viral- perhaps they will not be read
by anyone except for you.
so if you happen upon my words,
pick them up. keep them to yourself,
hold them for a minute and then
blow them into the wind like dandelion seeds.
perhaps some of those seeds will reach soil and grow.
perhaps no one will think they are beautiful.
perhaps my words don't mind.
By keeping me in the (I hate this term)Friendzone, you have taught me what love means. I cannot imagine what would have happened if you would have given in and taken me out on a date if your heart was not in it. I can no longer feel anger towards you or towards myself regarding all of this. I have said before that anger was a mostly useless emotion, and now I will tell you why: it’s blinding. It has closed my eyes before and I will not let it close them again.
Here’s the truth: I am not yet ready to move on. I don’t think I’ll be able to until our friendship fades, which is hard to swallow, but I just can’t see you as more than a friend. I hear your voice and my heart leaps- it leaps, ______- and I cannot force it back down. When I first told you I had feelings for you, two Springs ago, I assumed that if you didn’t like me back I would just stop having those feelings. It’s laughable now, but I have always been such an insufferable idealist, though it’s not just about hope.
Allow me one last extended metaphor:
When my feelings began to take root, I assumed that they were only pesky weeds that could be easily removed. So I ignored them, until I looked over and they had grown into a sapling; I couldn’t pull it out with my hands. So I brought out a shovel to remove the pesky thing, only to discover that it was beautiful. I left it, hoping it would get easier to destroy it as time went by, but soon I began to enjoy its shade. I discarded the shovel and the axe and all of my fears and climbed to the top of its branches, and ______, the view was magnificent. It made me see everything in a new way. My garden was larger than I thought, and all the love I have ever felt blossomed continuously around my tree. Surrounded by all of this life, I felt less alone; depression visited less often, stayed for shorter periods of time.
But my tree is still fragile and cannot survive on its own. I have tended to it, almost out of habit, for the past two years; I have known no other way. Eventually, though, I will begin to wander away from this beautiful tree. It will die silently and without complaint as I plant new gardens.
When I happen upon it again, I will discover that it has lost its leaves, and immediately I will know what that means. I will mourn it, trying to remember what it once looked like in full bloom, but I will not stay near it; the memories of it will hurt me too much. And as I am sleeping in the branches of a new tree, I will hear a soft thud in the far distance. It will echo in every chamber of my heart; the last bit of love I had for you will leave my body.
But it’s no use crying now, or imagining that endings are permanent or set in stone. I’m not there yet- the tree of my love is still full of beautiful green leaves. Just as I’ve said after all of my letters to you:
The story continues on.
With blossoming love,
I wished this upon myself, and no one else-
I did not consider you, I dove headfirst,
smiling at the adrenaline rush but speaking only
of how it hurt when I hit the bottom
and could not swim back up.
I hoped to find you, somewhere in that water,
searching for something I had not lost.
I told you everything you did not want to hear,
you swam away. I followed. I begged for you to come back,
"it's okay, you don't have to love me"
through the silence of the ocean that separated us.
I knew that you could hear me,
and waited patiently for you to return.
I dove in to save you, only to drown myself:
through all of this I had forgotten to come up for air.
I would like to believe that in the end you came back to me,
finding my body drifting and covered with years of algae and
weighing nothing at all. I would like to believe that in the end
you loved me, not out of want but out of need,
slowly drifting back to me after years of swimming against the current.
though, now that it's all said and done,
I'm afraid that you left the water long ago-
I fear that I've lost you, love, and in doing so
I've lost everything.
I turn and feel a strong gust of wind blow suddenly
on my face. And something new
rises within me, washes over me like a wave,
cleanses me, again
& again &
if love is such an imperfect thing, doesn’t it
have holes, doesn’t it leak?, I wonder after
being rejected by you & left alone
to my thoughts. memory is an eternal car ride,
memory looks through windows
without seeing trees, memory continues on. my
mother’s words refract off the surfaces
of my thoughts, bounce back to her, she
swallows them. I cannot listen. if these apertures
exist, where does the love go
as it leaves me?
where can I go, now. radio is a funny thing
in that it speaks through my indifference, feels like
the beatles are singing to only me. I press replay, imagine again
looking into your eyes, saying it a million different ways;
maybe it would have gone differently if I had sounded sincere.
maybe I could have said, (if time means anything), nearly two years
it’s been. twenty-three months it’s been, that’s seven hundred days
of building up these walls, so why couldn’t I just
my mother is silent, the radio is silent, the cars rush forward
in the same direction, we all have places to be. after you said no
I could see only the hem of your shirt, & then your shoes, & then
a spot on the linoleum floor. and I could see bits of my love,
like particles of dust, leaving my body and spiraling downward. rejection
was too predictable; I had built storm shelters hoping the hurricane
would not come. & when it came, I stood there in disbelief, unable to
shield myself from that deluge. remember, I prepared myself for this, so why
does it hurt?
getting out of the car is the hardest part, but when I do,
my body feels lighter, as if all that had been trapped inside
has been freed. it flies into the sunset like so many doves,
for a moment it leaves, for a moment the colors dull
and the walls crumble. but as I walk back inside, my love
surrounds me again, promises to stay, holds me more firmly
than your arms ever could.