Homage

My fingers intertwine with yours, our lips the same,
As the sun cools itself above our heads,
Flowing downward and fading like a molten river of gold,
The riches of all men once known and now forgotten,
Cascading down and further down, like the liquid metal
    that is your hair, rushing in a fall to crash into
    your shoulders.
Beneath and between our toes, the grass springs forth from
    the earth,
A pleasant feeling that reminds me that you and I are one,
That all are one, that we all sprout from the same roots,
To look up at the darkening sky and see not the spaces
    between the stars, but the stars themselves,
For we are all the children of dead suns, who sacrifice
    all so that we might live, and they might live in us.
The grass is soft, and we lie awake and give thanks to
    our distant parents, one by one, until we lose count
    and drift away to sleep,
You and I and Walt Whitman.

Butterflies

I stare into the glare of the lights, their harshness causing me to look away almost immediately. The strings to his gown flutter behind him as he walks - restlessly, with purpose but no real direction. “I think this place is against me.” I regard him curiously, unaccustomed to being spoken to by strangers. “I think this place is against me,” he repeats, his tone conversational. I ask the question he wants to hear. “Why is that?”

He spins on his heel, and I watch the butterfly strings bounce up and down with each step. “I mean, I know THEY’RE against me, but I’m starting to think the place is too.” I watch, unsure of what to say, as the strings abruptly stop. Looking up, I see that he is watching me expectantly. I blink, then realize. “What are you here for…?” He nods, then resumes pacing. I have pressed the right button, rewound the toy’s spring. His tone is still conversational. “Stomach cancer.”

I am so surprised I don’t even respond. He’s my age. Maybe a little older, but definitely not even twenty yet. Those kinds of things don’t happen. But I notice without wanting to the dark circles under his eyes and that his head is bald under his baseball cap. All this, he reads on my face, and he stops pacing again. His eyes plead with me, yet he stands defiant, just barely an adult but still somehow a lost little kid playing at being Davey Crockett. “Just tell me I’ll be remembered.” I still don’t know his name, and I’ve only had a few minutes to learn his face, but I nod and it doesn’t feel like a lie. “You will be.” He nods back at me, and I could swear I see tears starting in his eyes, but he turns and walks back out of my life. I watch the butterfly strings bounce away.

Two days later, I go to the nurse’s stand to ask about vending machines. There are two women: an older white lady, shortish and a little portly, lines on her face etched in by a master artist’s chisel as if to say “see, the smile used to be HERE.” And a younger black woman who seems somehow older. She has creases between her eyebrows, and her lips are pursed in a way that seems very permanent on her. As I approach, they are talking and looking at a chart in the black woman’s hands. Words drift lazily towards me. “… can’t believe it.” “So young…” “Well, things like this happen…” The white woman sighs, then carries about her business. The black woman just stares at the chart, unmoving, her brow creased and her lips pursed.

She sets it down and I run sobbing back to my mother’s room and hug her. She asks me for a story, seeming tired and worried, but knowing that she’ll be out soon. I wipe my eyes and tell her one about butterfly strings and promises made to strangers.

Smiling at Strangers

I’ve started trying to smile at strangers
This is a little strange for me, because I’m a bit of an introvert
My idea of flirting is being in the same room as you
for MORE than ten minutes
I’m not good at small talk, I can’t
walk up to someone and start a conversation
But I’ve started trying to smile at strangers
Because me not knowing them is no reason not to love them
No reason not to want them to be happy
So I offer a smile
Because maybe there’s someone whose day I can brighten
Maybe I can lighten the load they carry down the road they must follow
and even if I can’t take the same way, at least I can say
"I’m here for you."
Because that phrase is more than just the sum of its parts, at its heart
it speaks of understanding, the kind of understanding that brings me to your
door at 3 AM with a candy bar and a bad movie because you said you weren’t sure
if you’d make it to tomorrow
So rather than let you etch new lines into your skin like a roadmap to a destination
you have to get to but just can’t find, I remind you that chocolate is your favorite
and that a movie doesn’t have to be good to be good.
Sometimes disasters can be beautiful.
And you being a mess right now doesn’t mean you’ll always be. When I look into your eyes, I see
a compassion that’s rare in the world, you hurl your heart out into it and even though it
comes back broken more often than not…
You keep trying
Because you know that in a dying world, the only way we’ll survive is if we love each other
If we smile at strangers
If we forget about the danger that comes from giving yourself completely
And I refuse to believe that this world is so cruel that it would rule in favor of
ignoring this kind of selflessness
That it would let you live a life that doesn’t end with a standing ovation,
a curtain call where roses are thrown at your feet, a grand finale that lights up
the sky with your radiance and turns night into day
But until then, when night does come
and brings with it the demons that
work their way under your skin and begin to gnaw at the softest parts of you
I’ll be here for you
I’ll hold you through the night
And kiss your hair when you finally fall asleep
Because you bring light to my dark world
And that is worth anything that I could give

Heavy

It’s exhausting.
Ever since you left,
taking with you all
the best parts of me,
I am left with only
bones, weary from
the weight
of missing you.
I gather up quarters
and my clothes and
it’s exhausting
to have to look at
the sweater I have
left unwashed
because your scent
still clings
to its threadbare
collar.
It’s exhausting
to even now feel
the weight of your
head on my chest
and the weight
of your words
on my soul.
I guess I knew
from the start
that it would end,
that we were
destined to grow
and fall apart,
but now it’s real
and it’s exhausting.

Your sighs still haunt my bed
Red Flags

when i look back
at you and me
and us
and all you put me
through
i cant pretend
the signs werent
there
i knew
the whole time
does that make it worse?

Reconnecting

as I run my finger
down your
spine
its texture speaks to me
whispering
taking me by the ear
pulling me back
through time
nearly four years now
but, oh, how it seems
to have been so much
longer
so much has
taken root in
the spaces between
growing along with
the distance
but as you open up
I see the names of
all I once loved
and the stories
we shared
and I wonder
if it’s ever
too late

The Morning After

a lit cigarette burns
balanced precariously on
the rim of a cup
ashes falling listlessly
into a tiny puddle
of long-cold coffee

a bottle, a tumbler
whiskey on the rocks
the back of my throat
burns
It’s six A.M. and I’ve
finally numbed every last
square inch of my brain

the record has been skipping
for a few minutes, I think
but I’d rather listen to
that than hear the song end
so I wait for the needle to
wear its way through the vinyl

for years, you were my only
vice, the only thing I did
wrong
but now, I’m welcoming in these
demons, to let them kill me
before this lack of you does

Through The Looking Glass

Reflection lost
A sense of falling
Wings spread, then cut away
By the wind rushing up to meet me
Sweet agony courses through my veins
Empowering
And yes, bitter, but…
Still oh so appealing
I smile as blood cakes my back
Relishing the smell
Wishing for the taste
To fill my mouth with iron - 
So much better than the salty sting
Of regret
For how far I’m plummeting
I shiver - the ground shudders in turn
As I crash into and back through
It shatters into pieces
Impact takes its toll
My reflection on the floor
As blood slowly flows from my arms
Everything seems so…
Sharp

Looking Back

Sometimes
I think I sense you
more than see you
My stomach clenches up
and I taste its acid
trying to escape up my
throat
And I know
I know you’re there
watching me
for foreign reasons that
serve only to somehow
keep you in my life
just enough
to keep me from
forgetting you
and what you did
to scar me
this way
And though every fiber
of my being screams
to stare forward
to not give you the
satisfaction
I always end up frozen
eyes on you
as I turn into
a pillar of salt