I remember it was a snowplow that woke me from sleep, but you didn’t move – still dreaming your dark dreams, still lost to the world. Your arm was around me, holding me back from the edge where your single bed broke into nothingness. I can still hear the muted beep through the closed window; still see the red light flashing dimly. I remember wanting to move. Wanting to see what the snow had done to the street in such a short amount of time, but being too afraid I’d wake you. So I stayed still. So I imagined it.
I wondered how much of my memory would be washed away with time, like a rock broke down by water. I wondered much of it I would be allowed to keep — maybe just the sharp of your jaw, or the slope of your shoulder-blades; I prayed for the even pattern of your breath that seemed so much like safety back then. Or how I thought, in the darkness, there would never be another moment quite as beautiful as this one – as that one – which has long since passed, and left me scrambling for details.
Everything but the window has vanished. I cannot remember the month or where the bathroom was. I don’t recall if I slept that night in just your t-shirt, as I often did. I can’t even arrange the features on your face in a way that seems right. There is always something just a little off. But I do remember the street. I remember the snow I never really saw, how it piled on top of cars, how it clung to lamp-posts. How silent it settled at four a.m. when no one was around to walk on it. How white it was. How pure.
If I think hard enough, I can remember the cold of the glass against my fingers. The way my breath fogged up the window-pane. I can remember watching you from where I stood, in my mind, and wishing the red light was just a bit brighter, that it would illuminate the shadows and I could keep you, then, like a snapshot in my wallet. Instead, I kept myself – and that winter wind, still howling – and the bed that was only ever really meant for one.
You unfold my letter and rain falls from it;
I thought you’d want to see.
It’s from the night I stood out on the balcony
and watched the sky light up.
There’s something to be said for August;
some hot exhale, collecting condensation
up against the windowpane.
I don’t send poetry anymore.
I wouldn’t know how.
My hands cycle like the moon;
sometimes there’s almost nothing –
still, I can’t shut up.
You’ve gotten leaves, and shorn grass,
– sizzling asphalt –
a pinprick of blood from a hungry mosquito
I squashed against my knee
– sunburned skin, shed for the sake
You keep the envelopes in a box under your bed.
The nights cool off and colour the trees.
Summer hasn’t changed without you.
I wonder why you thought it would.
How many times have I been here?
How many times have I lifted my face to the moon
And what about my heart, that’s been stitched together,
thread over thread, so many times?
Can it beat still? I wonder;
how much muscle has to be left?
A sliver, maybe, or a little less —
but it must be enough
because when I close my eyes against the wind,
after everything, I still love.
Where have you been?
To the edge and back. In parking lots, laughing at cops. Coffee shops. Another man’s bed. To the center. To the trees. Like water, I ran downhill – like rain, through the sewer grates. What do you want me to say? I side-stepped my body; left all language behind. I was a shadow in a dark room, packed neatly away. A girl passing in your dream you couldn’t really see. I watched you. No – it was worse than that. Like Hell, but colder and emptier. As though all the devils were here… and maybe they still are. Maybe that’s why I burn like a film strip left under the light. Maybe that’s why my skin tries to slip away. Maybe I’m trying to give them the bones to gnaw on. To keep their mouths busy. So I can tell you something. Something secret. Come closer now. Bring your ear to my lips and let me say it… God, I need to say it…
How much your hands have meant to me —
the stretch of palm,
the holding on.
I read their lines in my sleep;
the future spelled out in my dreams.
And we are living happily;
it’s you and me,
and we are living happily.
When the spell called for a lock of my hair,
I gave my whole head.
I think, maybe, that’s always been my problem;
why my mother bound my hands in ribbon
to stop me from bleeding
because I would’ve kept on going.
They don’t need everything, she told me.
A pinprick will do – just a drop.
But I always gave away too much
and ruined it.
When I was younger, I tried to conjure a flower
and filled the whole house with sweet clover
so fragrant it called the bees.
I can still remember how they stung me,
drunk on pollen and promises of more.
But my mother only laughed, wiping my cheeks,
and said, See, it’s not so bad;
now it smells like summer.
It’s true, the women in my family often suffer this curse;
my mother’s sister had it worse
and tried to use her own heart
as part of a love spell.
Some nights I can still see her dagger in my hands,
piercing the flesh and peeling back –
but what would be left?
My chest is always empty in these dreams.
I understand why mother does it
– why she worries –
why she binds my hands.
I can’t be trusted.
I’m all and then I’m nothing.
And she doesn’t want the scent of sweet clover
to linger in her sleep.