The Problem with Fire

I wish I had contained you better.
I should never have allowed
what I had with you to spill
beyond the controlled environment
of my loneliness. That was all you
should have ever been to me:
on/off switch of adrenaline rush
whenever my heart flatlines,
flask of slow-moving poison
as a more socially acceptable
alternative to a quick end,
a sin for the body to dabble in
to distract from the shame of the mind.
You should have been the name
I never spoke, the taboo and the
noncommittal indulgence that dyes
the most broken of my nights,
too broken to even matter.
You should have been nothing more
than the lies small enough to pass
through the sieve of my vetted alibis.
There’s an entire world
for which I am the sun
and the art that I pull from my
reticulated soul should have been
infinitely bigger than the place
you occupy in my thoughts, in my time,
that my misery swallows you whole
without tasting you,

but then you started touching things.
You started getting inside of things.
You started speaking words that
ignited the walls and dismantled
the machinery of the restlessness
I call home. You started appearing
in more than one place at a time,
started pulling archetypes
from the shelves and laying waste
to every single one. You started
conjuring mirages of longing on
the surfaces of my immovable parts.
You started materializing at hours
when truth parades its naked thorns
and you refused to be put out.
You started becoming the size of
the faith it takes to make sense
of the ashes before the burning
has even happened. You started
reading from an impossible chapter,
turned the air that I breathe
into a hostage situation
with fate spelling out her demands
as you and I tugged at the chains:
all this happiness is possible
if you choose it.

You gave me the version of me
that blinds me.

The Last Hundred Minutes Before Light Breaks

I should try sometimes
to write about you
without the tired context.
Write instead, for instance,
what blooms at the heart of
the throbbing riffs of silence
between your kisses,
or how every time I see your face
I get transported
to the end of the bridge
where our chance first meeting
was so cinematic, anyone
who listens to me tell it
is convinced either that it was
contrived or preordained
(I use it now to tell apart
the cynics and the romantics).
How it still catches
my emotions off guard
when you say my name out loud.
Rush of dopamine to the brain.
You’re my favorite song
and your touch is the chorus
I can’t stop singing along to.

I should try more often
to describe you
unfettered by my life’s baggage,
unframed by the labyrinth
of knives and forked tongues
I have to defy in order to love you,
the suffocating, eviscerating
transformation I have to
survive in order to choose you.
Because you are other things too
besides the missing pieces
of my survival, more than
the fire I feed to distract me
from self-harm.

You are the place
all my words rush home to,
dancing around your light
like nocturnal moths in a trance.
A new star, serendipitously found.
A more nurturing dogma.
You are a kind of longing
I have never met, a good kind.
You are double-exposure
photographs, blueberries in a jar,
shortcuts through the woods
in autumn afternoons,
and 2 a.m. phone calls
making of eight city blocks
the distance between two
universes on overlap.

Blind, But For My Intuition Who Bid Me Don’t Resist

I just met you
I don’t know you
you are as dangerous to my spirit
as a rogue salvation spilled
from a tongue that chose me
broken in translation
for everyone else
there’s no way for me to
make them understand it
if, for instance, I need
to tell them I’m falling
into something endless
and have started seeing
a different sky
they would only think I’m crazy,
that I’ve faltered in my resolve
to starve my old addictions
and not even recognize
that these symptoms are new

I just met you
but feel no need at all
to protect myself from you
I just met you and already
there is no place in this world
I wouldn’t go to
if I were following you

I’ve never seen your face before
unfamiliar with how the poetry
that covers your body might feel
under the urgent searching
of my impassioned fingers
and sitting next to you
as you drive down this dark tunnel
is a risk I can’t be taking
a threat to my state of mind
but my subconscious has gone haywire
because it already knew
knew I was going to call you
knew I was going to give you
all the reasons to wonder
what the second day with me
is going to do to your soul
knew we would set each other on fire
like spontaneous sparks
clash of silver catching on paper
putting up no resistance

already knew you,
when I know nothing about you,
stranger whose skin tastes like
potent echoes of the home I lost,
whose gaze makes me hyperaware
of the colors I’ve swallowed
with my morning coffee
painting my insides
with sweet prescience
awakened from my mouth
I am saying all the right things
to make you want me

already knew I wanted you

I just met you
so I don’t know how
I can be so wide open,
so eager to be vulnerable,
so casually conversant with my hunger

Catching the Sunrise from the Ruins

What’s different?
When any other time
under identical circumstances
I’d be tripping over the things
that are in danger of breaking
holding the moments half in fear
like everything is so fragile

but now you’re here with me
and there isn’t any part of you
that feels like destruction

your mind is gentle with
my mind, like the words
in old school love songs
and even your absences pour
quiet strength into me
like I’m a faithful fortress

and every time I lie next to you
I get these visions instead
of things that are being healed
or becoming whole,
our shared, easy laughter
like spells of nurturing tides
offering up to the shore
the missing parts I’ve long
given up on finding,

your deep kisses and
our responsorial confessions
like light filling the cracks
binding the pieces
back onto me
as if I never lost them
and so I never have
to lose them again

Ode to Everywhere

The city shines harder
now that I know you are in it, somewhere
held by the same streets
unfazed by the same skyline
chasing your life brushing past the same strangers,
the same secrets, the same rumors

the morning mist over Humboldt Park seems
to rise in large fragments and the possibility
of you is all on the sharp edges
as if I might cut myself on a piece of sky
just by thinking of you

in this city I could run into you
or miss you and tell you I miss you
or we could conspire to close
the not impossible distance

oh, but if this isn’t what being alive means

The city streets have a louder radiance
now that everywhere I go I am seeing something
you might have already looked at
that your beautiful mind has bent around that noise,
that white flag on that North Side window,
that urgent caress from the early tangerine sunlight
tripped over that same news broadcast of that crime
and bled inside for those lost children

as if between us we have collected the world
and nothing I’ve missed in this city is lost to me
I could just ask you

The moans and sighs of the city have a different shimmer,
become almost an elegant mathematical problem
how we have lived in parallel and never met,
how euphoric to stroke now the question of
at which intersections I might have
already glimpsed your face and didn’t know
you would one day crash into me
like an accidental dose of ecstasy
or which silences we might have shared as strangers
in some finite space, the library or the bus stop
while waiting on life biding its time
spinning threads of the same mad urban rhythm,
two wanting souls like the lake and its shore
our cusps and curves lining up like jigsaw

just a few breathless blocks apart this whole time
like finely crafted characters sprawled in our humanity
before the big denouement, the Deus ex machina
such a majestic piece setting
for a potential saga for the ages
are we meant to fall in love?
are you going to break my heart?
and where, and has either of us seen Chekhov’s gun yet?
and what is it supposed to do?

Pandora’s ̶B̶o̶x̶ Search Engine

I don’t use that word when I talk about you
I know what we are
this is not an arrangement for baring souls,
inventorying wounds,
holding space for another person’s peace
and some such shit

I know what you see when you look at me
I know what I told you I was looking for

and when we are alone together
we shut down our minds like nobody’s business
and be all about pleasure points
and nerve endings, the occasional safe word
non-verbal cues and intuitive timing

and yes, you are masterful
and yes, you are amazing

the best I ever had

and I keep coming back

because I’m tired of being that girl
who understands too much, whose heart
expands to accommodate the width of
a complex and fragile being
in search of a sanctuary
and getting hurt in the process
and becoming better for it

fuck that
just fuck me

but yesterday I found your words
where you have spent years leaving them
in places for someone to find
in a last ditch attempt to call for help
but nobody came
and now here you are

and your words are softer, warmer than your bed
I run my fingers through the nuances
of your naked phrases and feel an ache
that I refuse to recognize
because I’ve given up on finding perfection
so long ago, I’ve learned to compartmentalize

But here are your shadows
here are all the places you fell apart
here are the dreams that still bear
a resemblance to the things I also
used to think was everything I wanted

and I’m sorry,
I’m sorry
I’m sorry

for finding you so vulnerable

but oh baby can I possibly
come over and touch you there, where it hurts

I’m a woman of words
and that’s why I hardly ever speak
when I’m with you
because that’s not what we’re on

but I found your words
and now the game has changed

I don’t use that word when I talk about you
but I think I’m just about to

Longing is an Endless Fall

I can’t be the space between sounds
after the last words have fled.

I can’t be what remains
of the disquiet
repurposing hunger in the small hours
as if dawn carries a too-large
consequence and the sunrise
must be stopped at all costs.

I can’t be that pause.

I cannot be the old sea
the fish are returned to
because somebody made
a covenant with emptiness
and might move
in futile resistance against
the life the water wants to give,
or the way the water wants
to flow, ultimately,
when we are all water on the inside.
Even the safe shore.
Even the false rescue.
Even the hardest things you
wish didn’t exist
between wanting and being told no.

I can no longer be the side
of the page that doesn’t
know the answers
and all the hostage symbols
gathered around the fire
conjuring the next chapter
instead of being it.
I’d steal the ocean and carry it home
and grieve its loss in private
while I drown
in my inner desert.