There’s a woman in me who drinks poison
like water, thinks it’s what she needs
to stay alive. I wish she’d learn to savor
water’s plain taste, enjoy quench and calm.
But give her hurricane and drowned
peony blooms and she smiles, raises
her face to the rain and says, Hit me.
I can’t stand feeling wind on my skin
because it’s not your hands.
I don’t know how not to hand you
the match, how not to let you strike it
and light this house on fire, how not
to relish disappearing into ash,
my bones crumbled, an exploded
plum all that’s left of my heart.
The ground that is not true
ground but spindled grief.
After you’ve swum in the ocean, felt
the current, wave-crash, and depth
that goes deeper, deeper, and darker,
to choose a lake, with its smooth
and silt, no matter how fresh the water,
how relieved the skin to be rid of
the salt’s sting, is to ignore the hunger
of the man brave enough to love the sea.
Marie-Elizabeth Mali, “On Being Left”