brushstroke of a saturday.

Should we start with Egypt, you ask,
and we do, two boys on a
Saturday unseasonable, your
passion flows freely, describing
Hatshepsut and Blanche Devereaux
with equal enthusiasm, I am
grinning, we are
kissing in the Met’s
quietest corner

Funny the way
tentativeness melts to the
floorboard, how we look back
on the nerves with fondness,
forget just how wonderful
it is to be at rest
with someone

By candlelight, dinner,
the drinks all wrong but
we drink them, share
stories and the hummus plate,
charm the server for more
pita, make a plan for
where next, then we linger
in the glow, conversation
a beautiful book, no clear
‘good place to stop’

It’s a blur, but it’s warm,
when you retell stories
you laugh like you are
experiencing them for the
first time, and it’s
wonderful, good to clasp
hands that build amidst
all this breaking, Saturday
stolen from a cold winter,
pin it gently against the wall.

i know who i am.

When I like something, I love it. Taylor Swift, my cat, Fire Emblem, Jigglypuff, the wing spot on 10th Avenue, the quilt sprawled across my perfect, ugly couch. I love unironically and enthusiastically, in a way that overflows. If you let me, I’ll tell you all about it.

The heart I carry around with me is tender and prideful. I will tear up telling you about my niece, about how deeply I love my friends, watching some scene in a TV show I’ve watched thirty times, but I will wage war to keep you from seeing me cry over you.

I will keep everything. Months, years into knowing me, I will remind you of specific instances, the moments I fell in love with your personhood. I will remember the first time you pulled me into a kiss, where we were and how it felt. I will recall the way your eyes look when you’re focused on something, the small signals you are feeling nervous or agitated. I will be able to describe what you are like at rest, how you sleep, the sweet and subconscious ways in which you share a bed.

Everything. I will remember how you are when you are on the opposite side of an argument. I will keep what you said, the way you argue, the ways in which you are fair and unfair. I’ll take note of the way you make amends, whether you ever say sorry first, how long you hold on or let go.

I will run late. I will say yes to too many things, and – at some point – yours will be the plate I will drop. I will need the reminder to listen, sometimes, to drop my defenses and listen. The same hand that writes love letters can capture your harshest edges. If I decide you’ve broken my trust, I will remove access to most of my ‘rooms.’

I will see you. I will hang back from the group, squeeze your hand, say hey, how are you doing? I will barely blink as I listen, eyes right with yours. You will catch me observing you, and I will need reminders when it’s the wrong time to check in. I will never not want to talk about the ‘big matters,’ our dreams and our griefs and our takeaways.

I live my life like it is a grandiose tale. I am lucky to be living it and grateful to explore every corner of the story. I will expound upon how you fit in it, how the narrative bent and expanded the moment you came. My words are my paintbrush and you will see yourself in portrait. It will pain me, I admit, to figure out how to write chapters after you.

I’m the sort of person that people confess themselves to. My messages are full of conversations on the heart. I am a friend who is just as honored to be with you on the hard mornings as the joyful nights out. I give pep talks to people I haven’t seen in years, decades. This is an honor and a consistent, lifelong pattern.

I am hard-headed and soft-hearted. I am bright, am a mess, am defiantly sincere. In conversation, I will jump from absurd ideas to gentle notions to a story about my hardest grief. Stay with me; I promise I won’t drop you.

finders, keepers.

Strange is the way
we become strangers in the after,
can you even fathom my casual
arrival at your door, kicking
off my shoes, setting my backpack
against the wall, by the chair,
kissing you hello, making
myself at home?

We are polaroids now, tucked
away in some closet shoebox,
one man seeing another off at
the New Jersey transit, dinner
on a sunlit patio the day after
I cried myself to sleep
for the first time since I was
a boy, skin rubbed raw
and draped in wild colors.

I wish I could keep the joy
without feeling the sting, Oz
in reverse, Technicolor
rinsing loose to stark gray,
wish I could know you
like I knew you, but we are
finders, keepers, nostalgia
the sweet, ugly ache of
trying to exist in some
yesterday.

page one, again.

Is there a better smell than
a freshly struck match? I light
a candle and watch the wick curl,
remember the scratch of every
page ripped loose from the binding,
bad ideas and broken plans, and
when did I become better at
the breaking than the building?

Give me a life with a man who
reads books, not out of some
higher ground but because
I can’t even fathom how safe it
would feel to sit together in
quiet, minds exploring worlds,
with someone who knows
how to be content with his
thoughts and the things he
already has

Pause at the library
and study my reflection in
the glass, am I really
a character worth rooting
for? Michael and his sinking
arc, stubbornly clings to
what has become heavy rather than
glide his arms through the floodwater.

edits.

There are people in your story
you will merely survive, I scribble
down, kneeling beside the coffee
table after a run
then, beneath the shower,
the sentiment melts
as the cold rinses
loose from my limbs

There are no bad guys, I write
on an unblemished line, I know
firsthand the hollow sting of
having tried to love someone
and instead leaving behind
scars, then I shrug, stand up,
tired of apples and oranges

Maybe everyone was trying his
best, my jawbone says, generous,
and my fingertips recoil, so it’s
a matter of capacity, then, and
not willingness?, my lungs
bark, sternum wails, forehead
aches at the cacophony,
a body at war with itself,
wringing itself ragged for some
meaning, for some meaning

What does it say about you,
says my heart, in some silence,
that your love is this color, sun ray
through an open window, what
does it say, for some meaning,
for some meaning?

footnote.

sunrays of an early morning
and here I am in the mirror
my body a tender mammal
warm and wanting, still
recoiling where I press recklessly
against the spaces where you
pressed recklessly

some hundred crumpled-up poems
over the last week, sharp-edged
lines slicing papercuts into my
healing fingertips, what is there
to do with fury, really? I
press on, starving the fever

relief swells in your absence,
no longer combing up the
crumbs and declaring myself
full, watch all the prettiest
boys open up briefcases
and bruise my own wrists
hoping you might
just take the money

I’m sorry I wanted so
much and expected so
little, tell myself you could’ve
left well enough
alone, and still I’m
enamored by the boy who
tried to love despite
better instincts, still
feels so unflinchingly
on this cold, bright damn morning

sunday post: coming of age.

The best nights in New York City feel a bit like a runaway train. The city is hard, brutal edges and corners, but it will give you story after story if you let it. You just have to loosen your grip, feel the breeze against your palms.

It’s 3 AM, I’m sitting on the floor of a Brooklyn train station, and I am reveling in how free and beautiful life feels. The night freshly lived is a series of images: six-pack of sour beers, black henley stolen from my brother nine years ago, crickets at Zona Rosa, stories swapped on a bus otherwise empty, bags of chips on a free-standing laundry, my friend’s face as we break free to talk about life yet again.

And now this: Me, 33 years old and suddenly at ease with everything that’s ever happened, singing into the cavernous space. Really can’t remember where I left my spine, carrying my body in a bag for dimes. I pause, the melody warm on my lips as I hear my voice reverberate. Hidden in the pages of the New York Times at home. Nearby, two women turn to smile at me, one giving me a thumbs-up. I laugh, shy, and hum to myself instead.

We’re raised on stories with satisfying arcs. Heroes face down villains, lovers face obstacles, people meet the moment and change for the better. In college, a fellow writer told me I’d probably always write ‘coming-of-age’ stories. Everything you write is about learning to meet this world for what it is. At the time, I resented his boiling down of my gift to something so simple.

But here, on this night and against this wall, I have to admit: The greatest coming-of-age lesson I’ve ever learned is that stories don’t really have endings. Human arcs are messy, layered, mundane, back and forth. Happiness isn’t just a quick mountain away; love isn’t the period at the end of some sentence.

But, sometimes, the story we want to live chimes in perfect unison with the moment we’re living. Peace is a cat wandering into the crook of our arm, purring for the moment. Try and grab it, hold it too close, and it runs away and skulks beneath the furniture.

And so we sing into subway stations.

My therapist apologized to me this week. Last time, she explained to me, when you were telling me about some of the changes in your life, I showed too much emotion. I laughed, told her it was all right, but she insisted. No, I’ve thought about it, and I shouldn’t be another person making you feel like I’ll be happiest when you get it right.

The hair on my arms raised, a lump pressing against my sternum. I accepted her apology. Our time together is always work, a long breath in and out, but it is also like looking into the mirror for a good long while. Eyes gentle, mind relaxed. Investigating.

Afterwards, I grabbed a coffee and stared out the window at a city in motion. Folks were buying Christmas trees, eating bites of pizza in between foggy exhales. I realized the hardest part isn’t the learning, isn’t the discovering the hard truths about ourselves, but it’s the unlearning, the letting go.

Maybe you realize you push people away. Maybe you even break through to realizing you do it because you’re afraid of being let down, and pushing people away at least keeps the control in your hands. The epiphany can feel clarifying, relieving, but the work comes days, weeks, months later, when you find yourself pushing someone away again. When you realize naming the monster didn’t free you of it, and now you need to forgive yourself, set the monster down, and try something new.

We are learners, always. We learn and learn and learn. Unlearning, letting go, is the good fight for something better. It’s swimming against our own currents and trying to reroute the story.

I brought my cat home at the dusk of July. I woke up, walked to my rental car with a cat carrier, and took the tunnel out of the city and into New Jersey. My destination, decided by his foster family, was a rest stop named for Jon Bon Jovi.

In the back seat, on his own for the first time, he was timid and quiet, then began to cry out. One hand on the wheel, I reached my right hand back toward his carrier’s net boundary. He pressed his tiny face against it and purred. We arrived back into the city that way, jumping over the page into a new chapter together.

Months later, it’s hard to imagine my apartment without him. At night, when I climb up the ladder to my lofted bed, I know he is going to playfully bat at my feet. On the mornings I linger in bed and play on my phone, I know he will eventually get tired of waiting on me and make an appearance to coax me into the day.

He’s changed so much in such a short time, grown more confident and restful. Some corners of the apartment feel like his, and he stands most proudly in those. We have rituals, and he knows how to communicate their beginning with me. He paws at my legs when he wants me to lift him, stretches his body back and away from me when he wants me to brush his paws against the walls and corners. He can open the bathroom door if it’s not fully shut.

As December begins to melt into a new year, I think of his 2022. Lanky kitten has given way to playful cat, a fuzzy beast that revels in his own rest for most hours of the day. He has grieved his siblings, moved on from the places he called home before this, come to trust me, flourished alongside me.

Sometimes it tickles me that he has no concept of New York City, of the busy and bustling world roaring just outside the perimeters of this apartment. I feel sorry for him, and then I realize I shouldn’t. He is so deeply content.

forgetting in vignettes.

Don’t you want to dance? a friend
asks, and, before I know it, I’m
riding a bike through the rain
in a glitter-bomb jacket, the
swaths of streetlight glow
shattering into dancing
stars across concrete buildings
and rain-slicked signs

I wrestle in bed with
someone new, we are kissing
and laughing, and I am
a mess of neuron sparks,
poet with pen overflowing,
there are better stories to write

This year I wrote letters
only I will read, sighed long
and slow as my eyes danced
them over, hands dropping them
on the desk to yellow
in the honest air

welcome home.

November was the eleventh hour
and I spent it reacquainting with
a room full of abandoned selves, the
me who fares oceans by intuition, the
one who sings his story in boisterous
tenor, me whose love blooms
every morning into a bouquet he
cannot help but hand out

In the corner, watching the
window with a rueful gaze, the
me who closes the door to
rooms where he did not
find honest welcome, who
etches boundaries like cliffsides,
keep your distance, I hugged
him and thanked him

The me who sorts the Polaroids
on the hardwood floor, arranges them
into a meaningful thread, he asked me
where you been and laughed
warmly when I confessed it had
been a shin-scrape year, that’s not
the story, he showed me,
whisking the blurry pictures aside,
you see?

I walked into the room,
embarrassed and wary, but
they’d been waiting all the
while, a family doesn’t ask for
explanations upon the return,
just pours a drink and admits
it’s such a relief to feel you here again

finding tears.

my supervisor tells me you get to choose again
and i have to go off camera so she won’t see
a grown man wipe his eyes, I
am telling this story just fine
until my friend interrupts me to say
you don’t have to keep saying ‘twice,’
and, puzzled, i ask what she means, she says
say ‘it was a mistake’ but you don’t
have to keep saying ‘twice’

on the night we gave up, i thought
i might find tears when i crossed the finish line home,
but no, just numbness and then relief,
found fury and indignation and
regret, my least favorite of these, in all
the rebuilding tomorrows, but
no tears

the only times i want to cry, am tempted
to buckle into myself, are the moments
i am offered grace, far
easier to regard myself with
brutal hands, stupid boy and your
stupid hopes, steel myself over
and keep going, ready to weather anything
but a single gentle touch, any
permission to confess the
tender, animal griefs within me