Love, Forgive Me
after Rachel McKibbens
My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
who makes you the happiest but the one who
makes you feel the most, who conducts your heart
to bang the loudest, who can drag you giggling
with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
It has always been you. You are the first
person I was afraid to sleep next to,
not because of the fear you would leave
in the night but because I didn’t want to wake up
ungracefully. In the morning, I crawled over
your lumbering chest to wash my face and pinch
my cheeks and lay myself out like a still-life
beside you. Your new girlfriend is pretty
like the cover of a cookbook. I have said her name
into the empty belly of my apartment. Forgive me.
When I feel myself falling out of love with you,
I turn the record of your laughter over, reposition
the needle. I dust the dirty living room of your affection.
I have imagined our children. Forgive me. I made up
the best parts of you. Forgive me. When you told me
to look for you on my wedding day, to pause
on the altar for the sound of your voice
before sinking myself into the pond of another
love, forgive me. I mistook it for a promise.
Unrequited Love Poem
You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.
In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.
In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have ever loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.
At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?
You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.
Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.
At First Sight
When she stops kissing you
with her mouth open,
find the screw driver.
Buy a newly cut shank of beef.
Leave so much blood in the kitchen
she has to ask what happened.
When she no longer calls you baby,
hide all the silverware
between the couch cushions.
Send her there to sleep.
If she does not complain,
let the sinks in the bathroom overflow.
Bake the wedding photos
in the dryer. Stand in
the middle of your flood.
Call her name backwards, forwards.
Wave your arms like your chest is a runway.
She is the plane you are crashing.
When she does not reach
for you, pretend
it is the first time
Five Years After
You wonder why I don’t
answer your 3 a.m. phone calls
When you say “I miss you”,
I begin to undress myself out of habit.