Fireproof

I write love letters to myself.

There are some advantages to always being the poet and never being the muse. Like I can appreciate my straight teeth, my dark hair, my thin hands. I don’t need anyone to do it for me. I can pen myself poems about the curve of my spine waiting in the doorway.

It isn’t as lonely as it sounds.

When you stop needing someone to love you, when you stop needing someone to need you, it becomes enough to wake up alone. To burn your toast. To forget your keys. It’s enough to promise yourself it’ll get better, because you will make it better, because you’ve come home to yourself enough to know when you mean it.

I fill up notebooks with Polaroids of myself. I am seventeen — tan and waiting to fall in love; I read more than I write, fill my mouth with words I know I will need later, even if they are a little spit soaked and chewed. I am nineteen — long hair and dark eyes; I give my body over to a boy with clumsy hands as if it were a gift wrapped in newspaper, and while he sleeps I wonder how I wound up so sunk and everything smells like black cherries. I am twenty-three — broken twice and bruised; I am Persephone without Hades, wandering the underworld, wondering how all the flames have turned to ice.

Someone pressed a pen into my hand because they knew for a long time I would love better than I was loved, and I would need something to articulate the ache, to fill the emptiness. That I would need something to hold onto when I ended up alone, when no one understood my dark and stormy, or was brave enough to kiss me.

I built statues of their failure, of their leaving. Sometimes I didn’t write of them at all. Sometimes I broke my own fingers to stop myself. It was easier to talk about the kindness in my bones, the length of my eyelashes, the ivory column of my neck and how sometimes I was crumbling.

It was easier to be the hero. To be cellar doors and alligator teeth. Bee stingers. Over burners. It was easier to be a little bit of hell. To come out of the battle with blood on my face and smile strange. It was easier to be the one writing poems because poems are promises, and I’d never lie about it.

But to be there. To be trapped. To be the girl that haunts the stanzas long after the meaning is lost. To be the face behind the name. I wasn’t built for it. Everything in heart screams more. In my flesh, in my veins. Everything in my eyes demands more.

I am almost twenty-five — there is a method to my madness; I write myself long letters about how I love him. They are far more beautiful than anything I’ve ever been given. Sometimes I look at my own hands with wonder; there is such beauty, such power, such joy and lasting within them.

When I kiss him I thank God for what is both present and absent all at once. He spends five months trying to give me a haiku, and he means every single syllable. For once I am not alone in them — we sit there together in those small three lines and mean to say more but our mouths are too busy. Muse, poet, lover, ghost… none of it matters anymore — there is only lips and teeth and tongue. Only skin and love and, Oh, yes.

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