on being left behind.
I learned how to pronounce the word “leave” when I was five-years-old and my mother told me my brother would be back soon. The syllables came easy to me. They were the sounds of the cars that drove by the house but never stopped, the clicking of locks that were never ours. “Leave” grew on me as I did in that chair by the window, two years of dust collecting on it before his shoe tossed the bits into the light that reflected off the medals on his uniform and the sadness in his eyes.
I remembered the definition when I was fourteen and I read the words “I won’t be coming home tonight” between splotches of blood on the notebook paper and incoherent scribbles. It was the same definition that rested on my shoulders as I scanned the name etched into the cold marble, trying my hardest to fool myself into thinking that it wasn’t permanent. That just like every other thing, it would fade away in time and truth be told, the definition stayed prominent in my mind while the weathered headstone began to crumble.
The creak of the door was reminiscent of a trigger when I was seventeen and the picture in the dictionary next to “leave” was that of my mother’s back, complete with an example sentence: “the woman had no choice but to leave the child with a monster.” The only thing Merriam Webster had wrong was that she had a choice, and that was it.
It’s a word that has long since become a constant in my vernacular and even more so in my actions, and for that, I’m sorry.
And I’m sorry ahead of time, because that just so happens to be another common phrase.
My metaphors are knives tucked
beneath shirts and riding the thighs of
women with short dresses and a look in
their eyes that scream, “I dare you to.”
They are gunshots echoing the streets
and through the trees, bullets piercing
the skin of a man who never saw it
coming and these words are thick and
laced with the memory of you, whose
back was always my favourite target.
I’ve only ever had a boy memorize the
apex of my thighs in the shadows of his
closet door, drawing lines of latitude
and longitude with his tongue to map
a mountain’s expanse. Fingers tracing
valleys and ravines, skimming over the
areas on my skin that was scorched by
hatred. He told me he loved my body
despite its imperfections - he could get
lost in the curve of my waist, stranded
in the crevice of my breasts with blind
eyes to the marks mankind left across
my wrists, to the uprooted forests that
once sprouted in my veins.
Just once, I would like a man to tell me
he loves me while the lights are still on.
it’s 2:57 am and i’m thinking of you again.
Let’s play a game where I accept you despite your past actions and the flaws you so fondly point out and we’ll call it “Being A Decent Human Being” and I’ll puppy dog-eye you into building a fort out of your two blankets and three pillows and that quilt you never use and it’s going to be a makeshift, mangled mess but we’ll sit beneath it like seven-year-olds who are so proud that our hands actually built something instead of destroying it, and maybe you’ll finally tell me why you’re afraid of the dark while National Geographic talks about great white sharks in the background. You’ll rest your head on my lap and I’ll play with your hair while we talk about the time the goat fish-hooked you and I had almost fallen over laughing and we’ll talk about your disappearing acts and you’ll get quieter than the night outside because you’ve never been good with emotions or saying what’s on your mind, so you’ll lay there and listen to me describe you in words nobody’s ever had the strength to use before and I’ll tell you how happy you look when your reflection isn’t staring back at you. And somewhere between reiterating my affections and tracing the tattoo on your chest with the tip of my finger I’ll say the wrong thing and you’ll begin to think about how some days you have to convince yourself to get out of bed, how you feel as though you should continue this life alone and I’ll know you’ll never confess it but some days, you want to die. There will be nights where you think of what you’ve held between your calloused palms and although I can only hope my body is the first thing to come to mind, it’ll be surpassed by the weight of the knives you tend to like a newborn child and you’ll think about their power and you will know their strength and how easy it would be to give up. And some days you’ll be marathoning American Horror Story or working for a company you hate and you’ll count the number of ways you could kill yourself with the items that surround you and you won’t say it and you won’t have to, because the way your muscles tense and you twitch in your sleep speaks more words than I am capable of comprehending and I’ll lean in and kiss your lips with the intent to take the pain away and I’ll have you know we all have those days, and I want to love you through all of them.
If you repeat something over and over again it loses its meaning; You watch the sunset too often it just becomes 6 pm, you make the same mistake over and over you stop calling it a mistake. If you just wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up wake up one day you’ll forget why
Phil Kaye from Repetition
You loved a poet who smokes menthol cigarettes. You loved the popular girl in school. You loved someone who stuck her fingers down her throat as penance for feeling pleasure, but was afraid of popping pimples. You loved a hair straightener, a cat lady, a drawer full of prescription pill bottles. You loved a little girl. You loved a lost puppy. You loved a dry addict. You loved a lot of dry skin. You loved loud rap music. You loved ramen noodles with the water poured out. You loved Dior mascara stained cheeks, white grape White Owl wrappers, a black SUV with a broken air conditioner. You loved fake flowers. You loved teenage catch phrases. You loved the never-had-a-job, always-had-a-therapist, not-a-bitch-to-fuck-with baby. You loved a false prophet. You loved a bottle of rum marked “truth serum”. You loved high heels in the kitchen. You loved barefoot on the highway. You loved a Breakfast at Tiffany’s afternoon overdose (please don’t call an ambulance everything is fine). You loved vertigo, osteopenia, and a laundry list of mental diagnoses. You loved red. You loved grammar. You loved cliches. You loved me.
They say that happiness is as easy as waking up and saying that today will be a good day, but what’s a fool supposed to do when they stay up all night counting the reasons why it won’t be?
A poem in which I don’t compare
you to anything.
In which you are not an
elevator that I got stuck on,
or a train that never left,
but no more than a person.
No less than a person.
Today, you are not a mistake
or a rip in my tights or a lesson.
Today, I take myself home and undo,
I take myself home and
write a poem about my skin
for the third time in a row and
then wash myself in it until
I’m clean and new.
A poem for the first full month
that didn’t hear the ache
of your name,
and for every month after.
A poem in which I am singular.
A poem in which I am more than
the people who never wanted me,
and I know this.