Happy

Truth is I’ve known since November,

you wouldn’t bring just a friend home

to celebrate your favorite holiday.

(I remember which one of your cousins is the family photographer).

It’s just that I hadn’t really seen a picture of you

“together”, together

until yesterday.

 

You’re usually better at hiding your lovers

like a robber that’s cased the store and knows

exactly where to keep his head down and back turned.

Does this mean you think she’s the one?

Maybe it’s just because you’re too happy

to care anymore about what people think about your partners.

Maybe I just wanna feel like I mattered more to you

than I’m sure I didn’t.

Sometimes I feel like I was just

something new you tried on for awhile

like a top that wound up looking better on the hanger

than in the mirror.

But, that makes you sound cold

And I honestly don’t believe you are.

Sadness just tends to paint everything black that used to be in color.

 

It’s my own fault for checking up on you.

I tell myself it’s because I want to know that you’re okay,

see proof that you still exist in the world,

like a security blanket or favorite place

I like to picture myself being when my eyes close.

Most of all it’s because I miss your face

but can only handle seeing it every few months now

like weight on a scale.

 

I should be happy for you in any case,

And perhaps I will be

just as soon as I’m done being childish with jealousy

and utterly devastated.

 

It’s not that I want you to be alone forever,

you absolutely should have someone

and I sincerely hope that you’ve learned how to let yourself be loved

the way you deserve, but refuse to believe.

It’s that I wanted it to be me

so.fucking.much.

I hope that she’s adventurous and attentive,

But sometimes I like to imagine that she’s a little dumb because she blonde

And occasionally overdramatic since she’s a dancer.

 

I hope she’s got a good sense of humor and tells you stories that make you smile

when you’re having a rough day.

But I also like to pretend that she has terrible taste in music

and a laugh that embarrasses you in public.

 

I hope that she’s wise and will teach you something about trust and how to talk about your feelings wherever I failed.

But then I hope that she cares too much about material things

and never reads.

 

I should be happy for you either way.

And maybe soon I can be,

Once my heart stops breaking

like bits of shattered glass

you’re never really done picking up.

 

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Still

You’re still the girl that all the songs are about.

If we were talking I’d send you track numbers like love notes,

waiting to collect a smile.

Finding something new for us both to love

used to make me feel alive

like nothing does anymore.

 

Maybe because you’re still…

the only one that exists

when I hear your name spoken,

knowing one’s born every minute.

But, I will never have another in mind

long as I live.

 

You are still..

the twister of knots and wringer of guts

when I picture what moving on looks like for you.

 

… the height of pride and stubbornness

and the breaker of hearts

too broken to fault.

 

You are the hardness of my false demeanor

and the softness of the true.

 

…the labor in my secret language of sighing

and the only person I’d explain it to.

 

You are the assembly line of verse

I choke into silence instead of writing,

like paintings set on fire

to save them from the wrong buyer.

 

You are the hope I shouldn’t have left

and still…

the love I expect will be my last.

Residue

Love is a gambling addiction

and sex, its fishing lure.

You can give your body a thousand times

But your heart, only a few,

really.

We give away pieces with every fall.

Not the trips, the stumbles, or the almost.

But, in the corrosive, deep, marrow of the term

coined to describe the feeling that makes life worth living

and death a villain.

My mother still wonders about the first Michael she ever loved

while Gino keep pictures of her in a shoe-box hidden in the back of his closet.

You once said that your parents still love each other

with pause in the response

because you don’t want a love like that for yourself.

It would be settling,

 which is one of your least favorite words,

next to commitment and… help.

The first woman I ever touched took a small chunk

when she handled me like an option instead of a choice.

That boy that made fun of you in front of his friends

instead of asking you to be his girl,

stole a piece of your self-esteem but later earned your virginity.

That guy you thought you’d marry in college

I suspect, has parts of you that no one else will ever get to see.

From a time when you were more open than shut,

before your heart moved into a gated community

of barred windows and trap doors.

I would have liked to know that Jen.

The first woman I truly loved

is the oblivious owner of at least a quarter of my mine,

which now lives in Florida and occasionally visits Staten Island.

 I don’t have a single chard of hers to show for it

but, all is fair, right?

That dude who served as your post-breakup fuck buddy one summer

probably still sees your face while making love to his wife,

wondering

what if his timing had been better

and your heart hadn’t been in sleep mode when he tried to enter.

I can sympathize.

I will probably spend the rest of my life wondering what if…

we had met in college instead of on the job,

when it was already too late

 thanks to some woman who plied the other half of your sexuality with wine

only to lie and cheat as she claimed another piece of your still naïve core.

I wonder where she parades around with it now like a trophy

and how fast she’d drop it after I jab her in the gut.

No matter though,

it wouldn’t be mine to reclaim.

We don’t get these things back.

We adapt, and become different people,

as survivors of trauma must.

We become shadows of our former selves with every fall,

one percentage of a person trying to love a smaller.

Love becomes a game of musical chairs.

We are figures and fragments that want desperately to be whole again,

but, two numbers won’t always add up to one hundred.

I wanted to give you whatever I had left.

I put my hand on the back of an empty seat

and waited for the song to begin.

I mouthed “sit here” when our eyes met,

But you hate being told what to do,

especially when it’s for your own good.

Pacific

Tucked in neatly like a dress shirt;

my grief stays put, until I get home from work.

Properly labeled and shelved like hurt in stock,

the mark you’ve left is kept

until the next time I put on some music and get drunk alone.

 

Like a cross concealed by clothing

because your beliefs are nobody’s business but your own,

how long I carry this torch is between myself and God.

Like a habit sheathed in solitude,

my suffering is a private event hosted in stolen moments

between conversation and company,

behind jokes and impulse purchases.

Because how much I drink about you

is between me and my liver until it fails.

 

Like a disability masked by artificial limbs,

every laugh and smile may just be a parlor trick

that’s harder than it looks.

I may walk the rest of my life with a limp,

but I won’t introduce trauma to the room on crutches

like a matter to be discussed out of etiquette.

Because what happened is between us,

and not just anyone who asks.

 

Like an artist starving without a canvas,

A writer isn’t much without its muse.

I’ve been swallowing the words I’d usually write

in the stage of denial, trying to outsmart the rules.

I’ve turned a deaf ear to a thousand verses

I would have turned into something moving,

trying to kill the truth like a nuisance.

But, at the end of every distraction

and the exception of this,

It turns out that I’m still really fucking sad

about you.

 

Like a scar hidden under long sleeves

to avoid the explanation,

I’ll never show what I’m feeling.

You won’t see me cry,

like a body of water pushing up against a dam,

those tears stay welled between my eyes and the ceiling.

 

If every woman’s heart is a deep ocean of secrets,

I was only ever the Arctic, a hand that stirred the surface.

But, for me you were Pacific

And your entire body penetrated me.

Omissions

Trying not…

to hold my breath

waiting for a dozen firsts

to unfold like a hundred scenes

I’ve seen on film, starring us

feels like dying underwater must.

Bubbles of air racing from my lungs to the surface,

like a shuttle into space

hoping to alert someone whose been trained

to save tourists like me who sojourn too long in the deep;

taken by the illusion of time,

gambling with the assumption that there will always be more.

…to harbor expectations

like a ship that will sink without port

feels like trying to sift oxygen from air with a colander would

….were anyone dumb enough

Yet here I stand waiting for the next gust of wind.

…to ask questions I can’t stomach answered

makes me feel half empty as a glass

sick of being examined instead of drunk.

…to function

as if the two things I love and use most in the world,

(music and words)

Are NOT

now tethered to you

as spinal cord is to movement,

feels counterintuitive

as dialogue before thought

or talking in general before text.

So, I pluck songs for you instead of flowers,

assemble these verses in place of speaking direct

because I’m better on paper than I will ever be in person.

I won’t even try to say that I’m not.

So many songs and artists will be ruined

by the end of us even if we never begin.

But, trying not to share them with you since I started

feels like keeping clouds from rain

then waiting to get wet.

Trying not…

is just another form of lying,

I can hear you saying

after I try NOT to let you read this.

As I had with the last

and the twenty before that…

Axis

Axis

You know I think you hung the moon
like a photo framed on my walls I can never stop eying
as though it were a person I love in the room
instead of just a moment nailed.
You know I think you set the sun
like a tie loosened from the collar,
pulled away from your neck
as ribbon is from presents
and draped inside a closet
waiting for tomorrow to begin.

You know I think you put the strings
in every guitar and violin
that ever played a song,
the keys inside every piano
that hits every note up and down pages of composition
that make an audience cry and applaud.

You know I think you colored the sky,
looking upwards and pouring your eyes over it
like tubes of paint on a palette
mixed and applied by finger instead of brush.
You know I think you light up the stars
like miles between country and city
like industry and pollution removed
from creation.

You know I think you move the wind
that makes curtains dance in front of open windows
every time it rains
like beauty being orchestrated
without a visible hand.
You know I think the world revolves around you
like an axis.
No, I don’t think you’re God…
just some of his best work.

PHOBIA

Every day my heart is full of you
as bodies are of water
as skies are of clouds
I fear for its survival
like a de-clawed animal
that’s gotten outside.

Every morning my heart is filled with you
as a tumbler is of juice at the breakfast table
I’m scared of its depth
and its potential for taking me over
the way the ocean swallows a brash surfer
riding the tube of its wave
like a spoon moving inside a mouth.

Every minute my heart is full of you
as speakers are of sound,
as tires are of miles…
I fear for its life and wearing down
like a mother sending her toddler
into public schooling,
no longer able to shelter her baby from harm.

Every time I share another piece of me with you
like rations of food that were supposed to be mine,
I fear for myself
and the lengths I would go to
just to keep you alive.

Every hour your heart sits on the fence
like a teeter totter on a playground,
like a weather-vane in the wind,
I shiver with reservation and doubt,
but, never give up.

Every second
my heart is more full of your face
than veins,
I’m afraid of how else
my insides might be rearranged
to make more space
for this absolute overtaking.
It’s not blame that I’ve assigned you,
but, an opening.
A booth in the center of me
that will always be yours if needed.
A place in my thoughts suspended by time
that will always be waiting
for you to be seated.