I am all that is left. Forgive me: Three poems by Rachel McKibbens

Untitled (Last Love)

To my daughters I need to say:

Go with the one who loves you biblically.
The one whose love lifts its head to you
despite its broken neck. Whose body bursts
sixteen arms electric to carry you, gentle
the way old grief is gentle.

Love the love that is messy in all its too much,
The body that rides best your body, whose mouth
saddles the naked salt of your far gone hips,
whose tongue translates the rock language of
all your elegant scars.

Go with the one who cries out for her tragic sisters
as she chops the winter’s wood, the one whose skin
triggers your heart into a heaven of blood waltzes.

Go with the one who resembles most your father.
Not the father you can point out on a map,
but the father who is here, is your home,
is the key to your front door.

Know that your first love will only be the first.
And the second and third and even fourth
will unprepare you for the most important:

The Blessed. The Beast. The Last Love,

which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.
Because which of us wants to go with what can murder us?
Can reveal to us our true heart’s end and its thirty years
spent in poverty? Can mimic the sound of our bird-throated mothers,
replicate the warmth of our brothers’ tempers?
Can pull us out of ourselves until we are no longer sisters
or daughters or sword swallowers but, instead,
women who give and lead and take and want
and want and want and want,
because there is no shame in wanting.

And you will hear yourself say:

Last Love, I wish to die so I may come back to you
new and never tasted by any other mouth but yours.
And I want to be the hands that pull your children
out of you and tuck them deep inside myself until they are
ready to be the children of such a royal and staggering love.
Or you will say:

Last Love, I am old, and have spent myself on the courageless,
have wasted too many clocks on less-deserving men,
so I hurl myself at the throne of you and lie humbly at your feet.

Last Love, let me never roll out of this heavy dream of you,
let the day I was born mean my life will end
where you end. Let the man behind the church
do what he did if it brings me to you. Let the girls
in the locker room corner me again if it brings me to you.
Let this wild depression throw me beneath its hooves
if it brings me to you. Let me pronounce my hoarded joy
if it brings me to you. Let my father break me again
and again if it brings me to you.

Last love, I have let other men borrow your children. Forgive me.
Last love, I once vowed my heart to another. Forgive me.
Last Love, I have let my blind and anxious hands wander into a room
and come out empty. Forgive me.

Last Love, I have cursed the women you loved before me. Forgive me.
Last Love, I envy your mother’s body where you resided first. Forgive me.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Forgive me.
Last Love, I did not see you coming. Forgive me.

Last Love, every day without you was a life I crawled out of. Amen.
Last Love, you are my Last Love. Amen.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Amen.

I am all that is left.
Amen.


Letter From My Heart To My Brain

Its okay to hang upside-down like a bat,
to swim into the deep end of silence,
to swallow every key so you can’t get out.
It’s okay to hear the ocean calling your fevered name

to say your sorrow is an opera of snakes,
to flirt with sharp and heartless things.
It’s okay to write, I deserve everything,
to bow down to this rotten thing
that understands you, to adore the red
and ugly queen of it, to admire
her calm and steady rowing.

It’s okay to lock yourself in the medicine cabinet,
to drink all the wine, to do what it takes to stay
without staying. Its okay to hate God today
to change his name to yours, to want to ruin all that ruined you.
It’s okay to feel like only a photograph of yourself,
to need a stranger to pull your hair and pin you down,
it’s okay to want your mother as you lie alone in bed.
It’s okay to brick to fuck to flame to church to crush to knife
to rock to rock to rock to rock to rock and rock.

It’s okay to wave good-bye to yourself in the mirror.
To write, I don’t want anything.
It’s okay to despise what you have inherited,
to feel dead in a city of pulses. It’s okay
to be the whale that never comes up for air,
to love best the taste of your own blood.


Letter From My Brain To My Heart

This house is dirty, but comfortable.
Behind each crooked door
waits the angry weather of a forgiveless child.
I cannot help but admire this horrible
power of mine, how each small thing
can become a death: the lost house key. A spoiled egg.
A howling dog. There is no prayer or pill for this.
It is a ruthless botany; I might as well
be buried in the yard. I have no one to blame.
Not the mother who sang to an empty cradle.
Not the Dog of Spite who bit my hand,
just this long-legged sorrow
who trails my every joy like a dark perfume.

You have my permission not to love me;
I am a cathedral of deadbolts
and I’d rather burn myself down
than change the locks.

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I am all that is left. Forgive me: Three poems by Rachel McKibbens