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I’ve known Grief for 15 years, now.

She lived with me:

a clingy lover stealing my blankets,

demanding all of my attention,

abusing me behind closed doors.

 

I was a loyal companion to her through it all,

holding onto her as she heaved and wailed all hours of the day and night,

skipping classes in high school to sit with her outside on the grassy hill,

taking the razors out of her fingers and cajoling her to eat when she was faint with hunger,

staying home to take care of her while all my friends were having fun.

 

I held onto the belief that enough pure love, determination and faith could fix everything

given enough time.

I was wrong.

I was the enabler, the exhausted martyr,

pouring all of me into Grief

when there was no way to fill her up.

 

I remember the day I looked her in the face

as she was flooding her despair,

the knife in her hands,

and I saw that all this time,

it was me she had been hurting,

my wrists she held the blade against,

not hers.

 

I left her.

That very moment.

I walked out of the cold bathroom

and ignored her bawling tantrum.

 

That was almost two years ago.

She still comes around sometimes,

pounding at my door in the middle of the night

pleading for me to take her back,

promising and threatening,

screaming and crying,

and there are still moments where my compassionate soul

wants to sacrifice itself for her again.

 

But she is not, and will never be

my lover anymore.


11/22/16

Your car is parked in front of my office.

After this long week of waiting,

here you are.

 

Our eyes touch

(yes)

you sear a kiss on my cheek

(yes)

this is the first moment.

 

We move backwards but still you end up in my lap,

outlining the contract

before the first kiss,

testing the water with just a toe

to end up soaking wet.

 

I re-meet your wife and daughter.

I pat your dog on the head.

We talk in half-code, not hiding;

vetting, testing, evaluating,

in plain view:

a dry run,

a walk-thru.

 

So far, so good.

 

Is this really our first go-round?

You and me feels like dream memory,

a shift one layer in,

recalibration, recognition,

*click*

 

My blood races:

dopamine-adrenaline-oxytocin-pheromone overload

but I’m sober enough to know

that this is how it should feel;

to trust when all of me agrees.

 

I’m beyond want of additional proof.

I’m riding the current.

I’m trusting the process.

 

I trust *us* to figure it out.


11/20/2016

Tell me to back off and I’ll know you mean it,

but neither of us wants that,

all consequences accounted.

 

You’re complicated, it’s complicated,

but good and easy aren’t the same.

 

I’ll work for it.

We’ll say the right things, then say the wrong things.

It’ll be lots of paperwork:

negotiations, compromises, assessments,

evaluations and risk/benefit analysis

until we conclude what we can already guess:

the answer is yes.

 

This is the way it *should* go,

trace the spark to its tinder,

ask the hard questions,

refer back to the map,

be quiet and listen to your blood,

look into your own face for the evidence:

oh, hello me, hello you, hello me.

 

Had we been foolish,

had we acted like teenagers,

sneaking out behind the church after dark.

Had we done instead of discussed:

been impulsive, reckless, destructive,

I would know it was wrong.

 

But here: I lay down my hat,

you tell me the rules,

I ask, you respond,

take turns in creation,

collaborating thoroughly between thrills,

the adrenaline, anticipation,

answers unpeeling; shedding down to their raw crux:

the answer is Yes.

 

I motion for you to sit in my lap.

You raise an eyebrow but oblige.

I tuck my arm under your knees: ‘gotcha’.

Already some part of me knew

it wasn’t a joke.

 

I feel the head of another rest against my shoulder.

You’re not here and I notice

and I notice

and I notice.

The stale echo of our last fevering play sounds:

the attempted quip,

the crack in the fourth wall,

the laughing onlookers feeling distant

like an audience,

and there’s just the twin dark flames of your eyes

consuming the pews with fire.

 

After the last tragedy struck,

I saw the tremble in your jaw,

so I held tightly to you:

here I am,

yes,

I’ve got you.

 

The song changes,

the weather flares,

I come prepared.

I pack for sun, rain, hail, wind, snow.

I listen to my blood say:

‘go, go, go!’

‘yes, yes, yes!’

 

We wait.

We poke,

we wonder,

we wait.

We reach out,

we stretch further,

we turn up the heat,

we wait.

 

Do you feel how we’re alone in a blink —

the blurred surroundings,

laser focus…

 

I watched you before I knew you,

some slow determined magnetism

pulling us here.

 

Still, I search my pockets once again for doubt,

even when they’re inside out,

but all my hands are filled with

is Yes.  


8/1/15

I know there is someone beyond you.

I know that on this level

you and I are not much more than concept;

you and I are a story, novella,

tragic and delicious,

two leaves on the rushing arm of river

briefly, beautifully dancing and overlapping

as though intentional,

but it’s just the water beneath us

drifting us in synchronicity,

the subtle choreographer,

the natural grace and disaster

sweeping us into overtone and unison.

Thank you for awakening my heart to this archetype

for the rush of color your definite stride has infused into the vacuum of my soul,

for the flavor of language you coat my mouth with.

Some days the question is resurrected

after I, we, do our best to lay it to rest,

pushing itself out of the soil again,

blooming insistent, biblical,

and each time I hear its case afresh,

look deep into your remembered eyes

and say to it –

‘no, I’m still not sure’,

but isn’t that just the way sometimes?

No clean cut-off,

no way to reintegrate all the frayed ends into total coalescence.

I can’t just resolve our story for good by saying ‘the end’.

This time I can claim no authorship.

It’s been weeks now since I saw you last

and your layered smile

saying that you want me, you’re sorry, you’re hopeful, you’re nervous, you’re torn

without even parting your lips,

and mine saying how good it is to see you,

and with duty we walk on

in separate but cycling directions.

When I imagine you and I

there is no earthy place we are,

no shared space but innerspace,

nothing tangible in the ways we’ve touched,

the body: shimmering hot like a mirage,

disruptable, reduced to vibration –

that’s no way to be human, love;

full of grace and potent as it is to exist in this tender heaven of our closeness

it is not the purpose of this life,

yours, mine, ours are lives

of purpose louder

than the ethereal clarion

that rises in the moments of our union.

Hold strong in this truth my beloved:

that some loves beg no consummation to be complete,

that some stories have no satisfying conclusion,

that I will still hold you dearly in my own heart

even when I do not hold you in my arms,

that if you feel sorrow or regret

know it’s just this path

which we can only take one of,

limited by our singular bodies,

and that somewhere just out of reach

we walk side by side,

and just beyond that space,

exist without separation,

wholly joined infinitely,

fleshless and without task,

lovers forever.


war

 

My heart is ready for war. 

 

The politician asked me:

            But what of honor?

            seeing none;

so I’ll gory the battle

armor-less and tall

if it’ll prove you’re not a poem. 

 

The only arms I take up

are my own, still shaking from your closeness

but strong enough

to hold out my damp heart to the fray,

to hold onto faith like fish’s thrashing

to hold this sacred ground.

 

The world has gone to war.

 

Towns and cities thick with gas,

black with blood and broken glass –

 

            the urgency is deafening.

 

Love me quick now

before they take my body

before they take your home

before there is no more love to make.

 

            we MUST make love.

 

They’re planting bombs beneath libraries,

read me every story so our children can sleep.

 

There’s no more time for fear

the worst is already on its way,

the guns are the least of it.

 

I will make my flesh transparent

since there’s nowhere to hide. 

 

I will stand in your yard and watch for tanks.

I will light myself on fire if they try to take you

and run into their arms like a child to the great mother,

burning them to ashes with my love


Questions For Your Lover

 

Do you want

                (as though this is 1804)

for me to never show my glossy tongue;

for my hands

to rest in crinolined quiet

while I wait for proposals

you will never offer? 

 

Do you want

                (though you would never ask)

for me to be the architect,

to ride a white steed

or perhaps even to play the villain

taking you wildly

as thought a damsel, prisoner

to god-knows-where

or salvation?

 

Do you want

                (I’m not saying you do)

to go out thing-less,

wearing only our calloused feet

into the forest

and fuck like bears

who’ve never heard of alone

gorging on nameless berries

until winter?

 

Do you want

                (because you love tragic nobility)

to marry the wrong person

on purpose

and on my death bed

to clutch at my wrinkles

bemoaning your mistake

just like in all the foreign films

I’ve come to hate?

 

Do you want

                (as though such a thing exists)

for me to proclaim

on top of the tallest mountain

with the sun streaming behind me

like a page ripped from the bible

that I will take YOU

and ONLY YOU

from this life and into heaven

and never turn my raptured eyes

from your holy face?

 

Do you want

                (because you can’t stomach the truth)

to ravage my body

and her body

and their bodies

as though nothing is alive,

as though you don’t deserve to be held

in reverent tender

because anything but violence

cuts you too deeply? 

 

Do you want

                (because you never knew your mother’s breast)

to curl up inside of my love

like a kitten on the radiator

and sink your claws into my miles of plush

and surrender

and surrender

until you have stopped

being separate? 

 

Can you instead

                (I know it’s asking a lot)

heal your wounds

open your heart

let go of anything you hold

even if it’s good

and meet me in all dimensions

with your eyes wide open

to the morphing moment

and simply allow

what starts to sprout

to grow freely

without worrying

when autumn will arrive. 


Men:

when was the last time you were told to cover up because you were showing too much skin?

do you worry about whether you’ll send the ‘wrong message’ to women if you wear something tight?

do you get verbally and sexually accosted by women when you walk around in public without a shirt?

 

what steps do you take on a daily basis to protect yourself against assault?

how many times have you given out a fake number because you felt it would be dangerous to turn a girl down?

when you’re at a bar, or a party, do you take your drink to the bathroom with you so you don’t get drugged?

will you decline an invitation to an event where you don’t know many other people unless you have another guy friend to go with you because you know safety is in numbers?

do you text the license plate of the girl you’re out with to your friends, just in case?

does your family warn you to be careful and safe before you go on a first date?

before you go anywhere?

 

what do you do when you walk alone at night?

do you hold your keys between your fingers like a makeshift set of brass knuckles?

have you bought mace? a rape whistle?

have 911 pre-dialed and phone in hand? 

does a friend know to expect your call to let them know you’ve made it to your destination safely?

do they know to call the police if they can’t reach you by a certain time? 

 

when you try to explain to your female friends your long history of negative experiences with the opposite sex, do they tell you “but not all women are like that”?

how often do you get called pet names by complete strangers?

do you avoid holding eye contact with women you don’t know?

how many times has a woman tried to make you feel like you owed them sex because they were nice to you?

how many times have you felt unsafe because of the sexual advances of a woman?

how many times did they refuse to take no for an answer?

how many times have you been *almost* raped?

 

are you concerned that if you choose to have a child that you might lose your current employment?

are you worried that your doctor would deny you a vasectomy if you wanted one because they thought you might regret your decision? 

are you afraid that you will be stripped of all your reproductive rights every time someone new gets elected?

do you feel like the government is trying to take control of your body?

do you feel like the government is trying to own your body?

 

when you see men depicted in shows and movies, is the source of their power almost always about how sexually attractive women find them? 

despite how strong a male character is in an action flick, does he almost always have to be saved by a woman in the end? 

how many times have you seen a man say ‘no’ to sex on TV? 

after being pressured did he give in? 

did he get assaulted if he kept saying ‘no’? 

 

do you feel like if you’re too attractive no one will take you seriously, but if you’re not attractive enough no one will pay attention to you at all?  in school?  at work?  online? 

did you and all your guy friends know which teacher would give you a better grade if you showed some skin and acted flirtatious?

do you feel like it’s easier to get what you want by acting nonthreatening and stupid than by standing up for yourself? 

when you’re emotional do you get accused of being hormonal?

when you take no shit do you get called bossy? 

when you want to be seen as sexy do you get called a slut?

when you choose to have sex with whoever you want do they call you the ‘town bicycle’, a whore, told that you have no shame, you must not value yourself if you go around giving it away for free, what woman’s gonna wanna marry your used up dick if you keep screwing around, don’t you have any self respect?

 

Do you feel

that after centuries of fighting for your basic rights as a man

that you’ve finally found equal footing with women in the world?

 

Do you?