In the beginning, I kept waiting for you
to leave. Here’s the rising action: I’m just pointing
out a pattern along my journey. Once, I was left
over swirly bagels, left over making his bed.
A friend walked out during happy hour
and I never saw her again. Now I can’t bear
the smell of grapefruit and gin. My family split
over gluten. Ever since, people keep trying
to take what is sweetest from me, what I want
most to have. Left over a yoga bag. Left over
a bundt cake I burned then taste-tested with my hand.
For the party, the hole was covered by a strawberry.
I am choosing to write in the passive voice
because there is nothing left after leaving. That’s a lie.
They’re always coming back, and there’s this place
two inches below my belly button where
if you press down, it brings release. It’s a rope
being yanked, a knot in necklaces and string. I cramp
at the sound of so many names. If you follow someone
but refuse to speak, that’s called orbiting. I keep
getting served those articles online. There’s this place
in my neck like a tiara of seedlings. I want you
to grab me there and never let go. Writing is hard
on my nerves and on my bones. Why did they raze
that blue trailer to the ground? And why did they set
fire to the no-longer-walls and no-longer-doors?
Because there’s always something new and living
by the side of the road: sandhill cranes and their chicks,
the color of custard and soft as calico; three guitars
for sale, painted and propped against a pickup.
But who would throw a perfectly fine cooking pot
onto the shoulder? Years ago, I burned my wrist
stirring chili after he said my only job was to help him
get into heaven. I told the therapist he made me see
if I wanted to stay together, I’m not sure if I can trust
my own reality anymore. Shouldn’t that have been a sign?
This was the shrink who referred to women as brides.
We are arriving at the part where I’m supposed to
either find some acceptance or turn away in arrogance.
And wasn’t I already scorned for doing both?
My art has always worked like this: I make it
for you and I give it away. It hurts and you leave.
It hurts and you leave. We’ve reached the end now.
We’re back at the beginning. You’re still here.
The Lamp Inside
In my past I lived upon a hill
present as a jar
of light and snow, the woods empty
as ideas—impossibly, the ochre soybean fields
fenced in white, owned
by a CEO whose barn housed
a zebra, off-brand, striped the color
of coffee. I was young and in love
with my own doomed sense
that I couldn’t belong anywhere
or with anyone. Early winter
evenings at my dormitory window,
I brooded in the liturgical
blue over the inherent tragedy
that I’d never transcend the walls
of this body. Spellbound,
I followed the sacred geometry
within snowflakes kissing the glass pane.
Worlds and worlds
glimmered below in the houses
down the hill. The woods parted
so I could see the lamp inside every room,
families moving through hallways surely
as rivers. No one
bed-struck by panic. No one alone
in the terror of syntax—
it is possible and also very likely, it is possible but very
unlikely, it is impossible, for it is in the unreal past—
that haunted my future, years away. Still,
I must have known it had marked me.
Maybe twilight and winter
are synonyms the same way a pocket watch
and a clock tower both keep time.
And I am an I, falling off. Forevermore, light
unfurls darkness, snow warms the bare trees.
I see only what I want to see.