tender.

by Michael King

i woke to find my sternum, cracked
to fragments across my comforter, and
out spilled the everything, all the aches
i’d unwittingly tucked into hard-to-reach
dresser drawers, not just sorrow, but
joy, and hope, and burgeoning love,
all of it spilling, all of it
aching just the same, i

choked back tears as i
ran by the water
because i thought of
my sister, of how i’ve loved
her with such peculiar clarity,
the way she’s made my heart
see the same color in every
chapter of my life, i

felt my palms go gentle
at the coffeeshop, the
silver-haired girl not
waiting for coffee after all, just
being with her friend
at work, and the
homeless man sitting
outside, reaching to pet
a dog, reaching for
the only eyes for miles
willing to settle on him, i

glanced down and saw this
heart, for all its wide-eyed
optimism, its defiant
bravado, and discovered it
again to be tender, love
letter etched softly into
a napkin, handprint
against the skin of
someone we can’t bear
to lose

poetry