Sunset is no metaphor for beginning, but that island, that summer, was all they ever were. When she refused to wash her hair for fear of disturbing the smell of the sea locked in its burgeoning dreadlocked strands; when her skin was browned by sun and softened by sand. He traced love with his toe and they shared smiles both bittersweet and laced with secrets.
“I’m afraid I don’t love you,” she said.
“Give it time,” he said.
And so she did. They did. They leaned against the pylons of the pier and drifted off and away. They loved as the tide came in and the ocean hissed beneath them. They were young and they were trouble and they knew nothing — but nothing exists outside the eyes of lovers locked in the latent lumination of souls glowing for each other. They knew it would end, as everything this perfect must.
Beauty only exists on the fringes, where the fabric of focus is frayed and colors are grayed — where you’re licked back to life by the metallic taste of fear-tipped tongues.
Perfection doesn’t lie in lack of balance or failure of patience; but then, love is never perfect. Sometimes, love tastes like salt water. Sometimes, love feels like the split ends of sun-dried sandy hair. But usually, it feels like jumping head first. Usually, it lives in moments that run away and become memories, gaping and gawping into the night. It may live on in songs and starshine, but it was never really there.
She knew all of that when she said “Don’t fall in love with me.”
“Too late,” he said, although he knew all of that too.
In my mind, there will never be a miscarriage of this moment. I have wrapped words around it and I will never let it go. I only lived it once, but I’ve read it a thousand times.
And I read it still.
does the purple in her hair
or on her shoes
mean anything to you
does the gravel in her voice
or the whiskey in her tone
speak to your heart
do you know her
do you know her at all
does the words written late night
or her crooked smile
reach you a million miles away
does the very air she breathes
tell you what she has to say
So this is probably the first time Kevin’s written me a poem and I actually saw it on my dash the night he wrote it instead of under my tag like a week later. So honored, thank yoooouuuu! <3
My 15-year-old self
walked into my café, yesterday;
ordered a raspberry white mocha,
“It’s my favorite,” she confessed,
“I know,” I smiled; and
she didn’t seem surprised.
Instead she commandeered
the table in the corner —
the one all loitering writers crave,
because there’s an outlet —
and also, a corner.
From her bearingless hump loosened
familiar detritus — stuff of laptop,
and book, and pen; and I knew
when I saw the hidden streak of purple
in her hair scraped up and back.
Everything she did was purple.
I wanted to tell her:
Don’t listen to those who push
to practical; they’re wrong.
Instead, listen to The Beatles and
the ‘Stones and Clapton and the Clash
and Dylan and Cash.
Buy a guitar. Right meow.
Never go home with a guy
you meet at a bar.
Don’t cling to anyone who doesn’t
understand you; he won’t learn
how to love.
If you trust people only until given
some reason not to — they’ll
eventually give you
a reason not to.
Don’t depend on others to tell you
you’re amazing —
Then when people do tell you,
you’ll have strength
enough to believe.
Never fuck his best friend —
he loves him more
than he loves you.
Forever and always don’t exist —
neither does never.
Trying to please others means
losing yourself; stop it.
Don’t even listen to me.
Burn our next world down.
I said none of these —
but our eyes met when I brought out
her raspberry white mocha, no whip.
I put in an extra shot of espresso
because I knew she wanted it
and forgot to ask.
‘Twixt open thighs will shelter many lies
where calloused grip had previous held sway;
caught nuance slipped amongst the muted sighs
that only stole your purchase to belay
your fall. In fresh existence barely sewn,
like roots aquiver deep beneath the dank —
tomorrow fettered thick amongst the known,
a broken compass point to ships that sank.
When once your name did tick on tip of tongue,
at bright of silence eve began to fade.
My bated breath still caught in marbled lung
as tolls I bartered, you’d already paid.
Time will not pause to honor your remorse
when love once had is lost, or run its course.
*My submission to Rex’s Sonnet Writing Contest.
I turned up the volume in my headphones so I could slurp my coffee without interrupting silence. He lit a smoke with a sharp inhale followed by an exhale that sounded more like daggers pointing in my direction.
I didn’t have to look up to see his eyes roll. “It’s always about you —”
I snorted. “Yes, it is.”
“No, it isn’t.”
“Fine.” I went inside to warm up my coffee, lighting a smoke of my own halfway to the kitchen.
“Can you not do that?” he yelled from the patio.
I inhaled and exhaled twice more than absolutely necessary before returning outside, relishing the tiny rebellion. “I smoke. You smoke. We both live here. Why are we banishing ourselves outside to smoke like the rest of the world does?”
“We agreed we’d only smoke outside.”
“We agreed to a lot of things. Wouldn’t be the first promise I’ve broken. What do you expect?”
“A lot, actually. You know what? I expect a lot from you. At the same time, I know I should expect very little. If you put half the effort into —”
“Told ya it was about me,” I said.
He stamped out his cigarette and stood up. “Why do I feel like this is all just a game to you?”
“Probably because it is.”
“What the fuck is —”
“Look. It’s all a game. Life is a game. What would be the point otherwise? Remember that time last year we went ice skating, and I told you I’d never been ice skating before? I lied. I’d been ice skating loads of times before. I only told you that because I wanted you to hold my hand. And because I wanted to amaze you, and I wanted you to amaze yourself at how great a teacher you were.” I found a certain catharsis in the illegible confusion on his face.
“I’m not sure I understand why you’re telling me this,” he said.
I took a long drag and exhaled in his general direction. “Oh! And our, what, fourth ‘date’? When we went out to shoot pool with your buddies, because you wanted to introduce me to them. When I told you I didn’t know how, but I’d try? I lied. I could’ve run the table against any of you — even Ross. I wanted to feel your arms around me, and I wanted you to feel like you’d created something. And I wanted to impress your friends by being a ‘quick study’, ‘cause see, if I’d walked in like I owned the table, they would’ve been intimidated. Then they wouldn’t have liked me as much.”
“And that time you told me you loved me, and I said ‘I love you too’? I lied. It just seemed easier at the time. You seemed easier at the time.”
“You’re an asshole.”
“No. I’m optimistic.”
I’ve been writing the same poem
for at least a decade, now — it starts
with hope and promise, with
words flailed about like arms
when feet are slipping.
Makes sense, I mean, you lose
all sense when you are falling. Focus
tunnels to survival and self-preservation, and
love is very singular like that. I never
could come up with a better
metaphor. I tried.
I gave up. And the middle (of
the same poem I’ve been writing
for at least a decade, now) is dedicated
to giving up. An estimated 
separate stanzas flagellate themselves
with this very point. I suppose,
you could say I don’t give up
on giving up. But I digress. I am
deflecting from the uncomfortable part
(of the same poem I’ve been writing
for at least a decade, now) —
the glossed-over bits polite history
doesn’t mention. The bits
might stain your carpet; muddy
your pretense. The ugly, better covered
and best put away.
Those. Then the inescapable
denouement, the coming everyone knew
would come. The quiet clinging no —
the rapprochement recognizing need hiding
beneath superficial sanctity. Times
better suited to French. We cannot
together, nor can we apart:
I am undo.
Here the poem writes itself, frustrated
and desperate, its long arms grasping
at ghosts that are not you — just ideas of you —
(and trust me, they are not at all eloquent)
but they are floating just as you
are floating and I can no longer write
you in (the same poem I’ve been writing
for at least a decade, now). We
Until I find another, take tentative steps
before rushing weak-kneed and limbs akimbo
to hammer out (the same poem
I’ve been writing for at least a decade,
now) but with a different target
to flail at, subjectively.
It ends, as poems always do. I
should know, I mean, there’s this one poem
(I’ve been writing for at least
a decade, now). But I never wrote it
about you. You’re not the object
of my inspiration — you’re the keeper
of my soul. And that poem …
you know, the one I’ve been writing
for at least a decade, now?
I’ve retired it. Between us two,
neither need nor room remains
for sacrificial verses, for stories
with fractured lines, but most of all:
for brief things with endings.
If you want to love me, love me whole. Don’t just love the pretty parts, the parts that can be idealized, exaggerated, and accentuated in your purple prose and your precious poetry. Please.
Don’t love my eyes. Don’t love the way I make you laugh. Don’t love my voice. Don’t love the way I can take you down. Don’t love the way I can build you back up. Don’t love the way I love without question. Don’t love me for my sense of wonder. Don’t love me for my mind. Don’t love me for my imagination.
All of these are too easy, and love is meaningless without effort.
Love me because I routinely stay up until 6:00 a.m. Love me because I’m equal parts broke and broken. Love me because the only things I can “cook” are eggs and bacon and Mac&Cheese. Love me because I put those three things together, once, because I love them all and see no reason they shouldn’t be combined. Love me because I thought that combination was not half-bad but I never did it again. Love me because I feel more comfortable on the fringes. Love me because I constantly contradict myself. Love me because I don’t know where I’m going. Love me because leaping before looking is my usual modus operandi. Love me because I never seem to learn from that. Love me because I think too much about things that don’t matter and not enough about things that do. Love me because I always manage to take a good thing and fuck it up. Love me because I constantly push you away. Love me because I’m reckless. Love me because I care far more than I ever let on. Love me because I never live up to my own expectations and neither do you. Love me because that’s probably a good thing.
If you want to love me, love me whole.
You’ll soon realize there’s too much of me to allow you room to love anyone else.