we did not know enough
to realize that where
there is smoke,
there is a fire—
touch her again
and see if it burns
touch him again
and feel your skin sear
against the hot stove
your mother told you
to keep your hands off
against flickering tongues
of lurid crimson flames
but we did not know enough
and no one seems to learn
how some things are not
meant to be touched and
how easily people burn.
If You're Not A Romantic
Don’t tell her
there are steps
on her spine
you’d like to climb
or that she’s
more to her
than the crescent
and the phases
of her smile.
Don’t tell her
she’s got hyacinth
in her veins,
that the plains of
are gates to secret gardens.
the burn of
on your throat
and all of those
if you had to go
for a day.
when i was in high school i was
a smart and mediocre student
and when i was in college
i was a smart and good student
and then mental illness came
like a fucking bullet some asshole
shot into the air on new year’s eve
that landed through my head
a mile away
and now i am mediocre always
i thought i’d have my shit together
by now, i thought i’d be a teacher
and have a house and hate my life
but instead i do nothing and have
nothing and hate my life
i spend all day writing shit
that doesn’t matter
(nothing matters, nothing ever
“matters”, but still, some things matter
less than other things somehow)
i have no friends
some people say nice things
about the shit i write
some people ask me am i joking
they say poetry is counting and measuring
and poetry is saying a new thing
using old things
and language matters, and grammar matters
some people want me to admit
that i don’t deserve
the nice things that people say
look, i didn’t kill myself today
and that is how i gauge success now
look, leave me alone
look, i don’t care about your sense
look, i don’t owe you anything
i am mediocre and alive
and nothing else matters
What would it be like to actually feel, to gently place my hand on your cheek and watch you breathe? To touch you, to simply be there with and for you. Nothing else, nothing more, no silent plea for you to fix me. Savoring the magic, two as one. Innocent and vulnerable, without the constant need, the drive, the yearning for your special gift to somehow make or prove me well. To be fully alive for even one brief shining instant, to share that eternity with you. To know and love you as you are and not as the one my fearful dreams would have you be. To kiss your tears and taste your laughter. I’m afraid, and I can’t get there on my own. Can you touch me with your love, can you teach me how to feel?
My Anger is Not an Affliction, My Anger is a Right
When you say you love me
even in my anger,
I do not take that as affection.
To say you love me in my anger
suggests my anger is not a part of me,
but rather something I slip into
when the occasion warrants
a change of mood.
Would you tell me you love me
in my softness?
No. Because you would take
that softness for granted.
You would expect me always
to be full of feathers.
You would expect me to say please.
But if I say fuck you,
if I say you bastard, if I scream,
if there is an avalanche in my throat
that just one comment from you
sends thundering down,
you must later kiss me
in spite of all that.
That is what you are saying to me.
Not “I love you in your anger,”
but, “I love you even when you
take that route, even when you
jump that cliff, when you run that
red light, when you test me.”
You are not saying, “I love you.”
You are saying, “do not challenge me,
I will take your anger and put it out
between my fingers like a lit match.”
You are saying, “I will indulge this,
I will let you have this moment,
I will allow you this madness,
I give you my permission to act out.”
You are saying, “don’t you dare
make a habit of this.”
Clean Bed Sheets
This is the part where you undress.
Say “I love you” with a mouth full of food.
Spit out the words like a loose hair.
Wipe the corners of your mouth.
Tell everyone you went further than you did.
Ruin her reputation like her bed sheets.
She can no longer sleep here alone.
She fills your side of the bed with
condoms and other boys and clean bed sheets.
Convince her that she asked for it,
remind her you did nothing wrong.
Tell your friends that it was easy.
She unfolded like a dinner napkin.
When they ask if she was a lady,
tell them you have never heard the word.
Convince them you only speak boxer sweat.
Say she is fluent in keeping her mouth shut.
Wash your hands before you eat.
This is the part where you get dressed.
Gather her things from the foot of the bed.
Say “I love you” like you bit your tongue.
When she asks if you are grown,
Always answer “Yes.”