before you tell me, i want you to know i know better than to believe in this bleeding to heal me, learned this the hardest damn way, a hundred cut cloths run red, i know, i know, i know, and my hands go wandering to old wounds anyway
still pick at the scab that stretched over your absence, whisper languages buried, throat still catches when i tell the story of the torn up tickets, stop saving meaningless things, dangle my aching soles over the edges of things i thought would go on carrying me
most days, the stories seem weightless, as natural in my arms as a lover’s head resting, but then my shoulders shake, forehead damp as i let swell the worry: am i so busy carrying yesterdays i am dropping my todays to the cracks in the asphalt
were mine a mind of the sciences, i wouldn’t dream of peeling steel edges against the shell of my wanting skin, yet always i am mining, mining, mining for meaning in the wounds picked up along the way
how soon is too soon, futile question, unanswered, heartbeat runaway, how is it possible you already feel familiar, wander into this living room and sink right into the couch pillows
i want to know everything, pace the library, where in your chapters did your heart first break, what lessons were given to you as bruises, can i run my hands over the length of your spine, will you settle with me in the sunny corners, sweet brown eyes, whisper to me the secrets of the universe
the wide wild geography stretching between us, i babble foolishly, trying to say everything in sixty seconds, hoping, believing i am not just inventing another chemistry, there’s your face and i’m yearning
there is blue in your being, hushed and brilliant and teeming with hope, ivy stretching her way up that which was once broken, i have seen it, small glimpses, i want to paint all the walls
somehow, this time, some things just feel known, a river stream exhaling as it bends round a fallen log, knowing, trusting, rolling gently ahead.
if i’m honest, i didn’t want this, tried to dress this heart up like the others, train these hands to write the story right, deepen my voice, practice my walk, tried to long after the things i was promised were meant for me
and, if i’m honest, i lost it, fell to ribbons after ages of bundling, held my unraveled threads and learned to breathe in unfiltered air, practiced trusting the color of my heartbeat, threadbare
i owe love letters to the hands that ushered me forward, the first boy to see me and pull me closer, love like ivy stretching across all my concrete artifice, to the friends who handed me rainbows on the mornings i could only forecast flooding
i never did so much trying as i did before i let this self be, all the try, try, try screeching to silence the moment i allowed myself aloud, if i’m honest, a promise
the chapters have stacked, time seductive in its blurring of old bandages, i look across the swimming pool and ache with love for a boy in golden light, ripples, dance with joy in wild clothing, look you in the eye and tell you my name, if i’m honest, i want this, i want this.
in my coffee, i’ll tell you, i know there is god, in the moan of a lover, fingers dug desperate against my shaking back, oh god, there you are, stay right here
there is god in the way we can feel the temperature change, the fall of our walls, letting loose the idea that we are hard to love, god in the way that i saw you and saw it was good
god in the cigarette passed between friends on the long, hardest nights, god in the stories that follow our scarring, and in music, that song, that melody rescuing the room, my god, we sing along from our bellies
and, god, i swear you are there in the stammered damn speeches, the hardest i ams, the rainbow of your own creation, god in the pressing of lips against forehead, i am here, body breaking for you.
white shirt on the cranberry rug, i am moved by the way your eyes hold steady while you’re listening, hand over your story in glimpses, pages and pages that lead to a makeshift picnic on my apartment floor
how do we choose which fragments of the road behind us to show one another, how do we write a life over the course of a single coffee
i don’t know where your eyes go when the words dry up, don’t know a single thing about the next pages you or i will write, but i will sing gratitudes for the way threads line up and show us small pieces of each other in the crossing.
thirteen years old on a summer afternoon, i grinned at your suggestion, the scenic route home, adventure for mother and son, passed a murky lake and your eyes traveled backwards in time, found the story of the first boy who made you feel beautiful, and the notion cracked my mind open:
in my own mother, worlds i didn’t know, an entire life before i drew a single breath
what did you think i would be on the first day i wept in your palms, did you imagine i would soar and stumble the way i have, were you prepared for the times my words would have sharp edges, the days my eyes would become broken dams?
on the day i realized the world was going to screech to a halt, my first thought was how to get home to your reach, thirty years old and running to the first arms that ever caught me
i am always carrying you, into each beginning, into the moments my hands shake, into the nights i am unsure i know which way to walk, into the conversations where my voice is on the verge of breaking
you are a thousand things to me and one, all at once, layered and simple, too big to be held by words and a single, clear feeling, blossoming yellow in the constant hope
I sat down to write tonight, and I’ve done more backspacing than building. When did I get so cautious about stacking words into worlds?
Part of me wonders if I’m still shaking off scar tissue from this goddamn pandemic, from watching the world grind to a halt, all the calendar days shaken loose, falling in defeat to the hardwood floor. Am I hesitant to write because I’m afraid everything will change mid-sentence?
I’ve been able to write in flashes. In an age of trusting only the present, my poetry has flourished. I’ve got poems on the melancholy view of a world through a window, poems on surprise glimpses of love, on the stories that surprised me on a hard damn year, on the moments a man felt unprecedented, on friendships like buoys in the swallowing vast. But to write paragraphs, to sit with the life I’ve been carving out and try to arrange it into something real and solid, has felt beyond reach.
I am still training my hands to be gentle in their carrying of this self. I am an impatient healer, a lifelong devotee to the idea that I can will my way through most anything, and I don’t know what to do with a voice box that chokes where it once knew to say something.
I’ve written this, some version of it, four or five times. They don’t need to know you don’t know what to say, some part of me grumbles, and yet this pours out every time I start wringing. Held hostage, once more, by the the most honest thing growing within me.
I read through old writing tonight. I think I hoped, in doing so, I’d remember my rhythms. Instead, I found myself stretching the stories out beneath the light, squinting in wonder at how time has changed everything and nothing.
A few weeks ago, I shared a conversation with an ex, somebody I hadn’t spoken with in years. We were clumsy in our cadences, tentative in the exchange. How does this go? Eventually, at least partly, we fell into step, exchanging jokes and updates. At some point, he asked me a question in earnest: Did I regret our time together? The answer, simple as an exhale, was no. Our story had its time and place, and we left both of those boys behind to become ourselves, two men messaging one another across geographies.
I study myself in the mirror and search for signs of aging. I am reminded of being a child, my younger sister and I wading out into the ocean and jumping along ocean waves. How certain we were we’d remained in the same spot, our feet lifting and falling onto the same sand, only to turn around and find we’d drifted fifty-one houses away from our family. So it is with time, and so I study my face and strain to see parts of me I am beginning to let go to make room for what’s next.
I am a different lover, thankfully, than I was at 22. And 25. And 29. My understanding of what love is, can be, the shapes it can take, has evolved right along with my story. In so many ways, I am still the same, my heart in love a wellspring of poetry and playlists and gestures big and small, but I have shed a few old habits. No more swallowing what I need or explaining away the hard parts of somebody I’m trying to love. I want to see him, want to show myself, in the honest light. I understand love, now, to be far more flexible than I’d imagined, stretching itself to grow and flourish in whatever container it finds.
We find our reflections a hundred different ways – in old photographs, in new lovers, in the stories we once lived – and we are reminded of time, brushing us tenderly onward underfoot.
Today, a friend and I reminisced about how, the very first time we met, we felt like friends from past lives rediscovering one another. I remember seeing him, introducing myself and driving him to a dinner with a few other people, and realizing, oh, we are going to be friends. Two and a half years later, drunk on the hardwood floor of my first New York apartment, we discovered we’d both felt it. We drank more, laughed like boys, kept telling each other, in different ways, how much we loved each other.
If anything has been a thread through this timeline, it is the love I didn’t plan for. People who wandered into my life, saw me, and decided to stay. There are people who have loved me through every era of my being, through bad haircuts and worse clothing choices, through heartbreaks and triumphs alike. I am bewildered, sometimes, by the fact that I am loved by people who have seen me on my ugliest day, found me in the deepest tangle of shame, stayed with me through the worst thing I’ve ever done.
I am still learning to love the hard parts of myself, still working to believe that I can be seen in the honest light and still so powerfully loved. Time has changed so much and so little. In this way, I hope the ocean around me devotes to its motions, gently guiding my feet, ushering me onward, onward, onward.
talking quantum physics and human stories on the hardwood floor, i am struck by the brightness of your eyes, intertwined with gentleness, you are a tangle of compassion and critical thinking, brush strokes against synapses illuminated, there is music in the way the planets align
what are we, if not creators, lovers and thinkers, carriers of every story we’ve survived and every story we hope survives us?
you are the outstretched hand, welcoming, ushering everything forward, better, forget the broken pavement behind us, miles ahead there is more for us, if we understand there is magic to believing in magic, hope in holding reality in these shaking, aching palms, you are withness, bearing witness to our wildest becoming
you are warm conversation into the early hours, glass empty on the table but inspiration overflowing, a story unraveling and coming together in the exact same exhale.
oh, wide-eyed lover, someday you may just learn to let a smile across the dimly lit bar be a grin, let the song that played the first time his lips met yours be music, let the things he whispers in blue early hours be words
perhaps, tender poet, you can rest your pen, let the folded up shirt he left behind be a hoodie, let the villains who left scars in their wake be men, let a wound, somatic, on your open sternum be healed
or, bright-hued painter, you may just keep on embellishing, let the lunch under overcast skies be an adventure, let the hand finding yours while sleeping be a love song, let the hard days that didn’t break you be a story.