Forever / at the Five-Year Mark

Too early a certainty
we were, and too illusory.
Would I now spend the rest of
the noiselessly peeling years
skirting around the doubt
that is blasphemy
to my last surviving dogma?
I’ve written a hundred poems
until you got tired of reading,
and a hundred more after that
slightly more honest, angrier
metaphors for the truth,
but not the truth.
Too big and too sharp and
there is no room for any more
wounds or mercies, as precise
and invasive as surgeries
(my heart is a proverb
for a scalpel that I hold
in my hand).

We are saved
but irreversibly altered
and none of the old reasons survive.
Who loved whom, and still does,
when our old ambitions
become strangers and our most
earnest prayers never existed
in the rewriting?
I’m sorry for deceiving you
with the stubbornness I mistook
for constancy, the proclivity
for roots I mistook for a talent
to stay happy in one place.

All these words
and none enough
for this unhappiness.

Just Short of the Border

You used to be the largest thing
in my heart’s hours,
my hours’ heart,
my orbit’s center

now you are the lines
that frame everything,
the final say,
the boundaries outside
of which nothing can exist
(or everything does
that I cannot see),
nothing can be spoken
bold strokes of a state of mind
beyond which everything is taboo
everything is forbidden
everything is
not free

While My Springtime Sleeps

It must be something deeper
than a good thing that
no longer holds

an extinguished morning
parading its remnants
of colors like a robe
whose only virtue left
is dignity,
the weight of history,
the tangerines and mulberries
no longer as vibrant and
their edges blurring,
the cranes tired of
kissing the sky, the sky
tired of holding the stars

and all the battles fought
read like poems
written by the victors,
the pearls harvested from
the shells, now empty.
I have to think of a name
for that different hunger,

mesh of extra fine wire
between myself and the world,
here, where love has evolved
into print on brocade
of converted summers
and waiting,
beauty all lined up
on daily dusted shelves.

Jukebox

So get to the song
that talks about ever after
as a place, white corners
and hyacinths in full bloom,
snowflake patterns on the glass,
and conveniently forgets
to mention the sideways silences,
the points of previous brokenness
that reappear, sometimes with
the face of extended winters
or house plants that just
won’t stop dying,
all the outtakes of living
that feel more like tightrope
walking over a tedious hum
of repeating gray.
Get to that place
on your playlist where
the fairy tale devolves
into the painfully familiar
humanity of the villain, and
the ideals of the heroine
could use a dismantling.
Play the song that romanticizes
the martyrdom, that lies
about the sandpaper surface
on the other side of love,
and call bullshit on the
engineered melody, data-mined
and focus-grouped from your
wide-open past to kill you
softly. Replace the words.
Demand a do-over from
the composer your heart
so masterfully tunnel-visioned
and prone to sweeping strokes,
having been so devoted to
writing the surge of the river
while starving the tributaries.
I want the song I had sung
before I survived the disaster,
the one I danced to, that felt
like the drunken night before
an important revolution.
Not these soulless reruns,
producer’s cut,
lyrics on the screen.
I had saved some tears,
some sparks of inner fire,
and nowhere to spend them.
Give it back.

Days in a Shuffle

It faded.
What used to be sky
to a road that binds,
witness to measured steps
towards the coveted.
Time claimed it, like silk
left out to the mercy
of the elements: threadbare
and less a sieve for casual
conversation than the wind
that runs through it,
the past catching.
The repetition mutes
the colors, us sitting
on perpendicular couches,
melted candles on the corner
table and the place in the
dust where the framed wedding
portrait last got moved.
The photographer thought
he’d fix it in Adobe Lightroom,
in a place where monochrome
was fashionable. But he didn’t
have to because everything
arrives in autumn eventually,
sepia tones and gravity.
The sky, silver-lined,
a tarnished chain that
lost most of its charms.
The wrist of fate wearing it,
more what touching remembers
than what the obligation of
permanence understands.

Serendipitous, Like Double Exposure Photographs

You are healing me
but you are also breaking me
in places where I didn’t think
I could be broken
Will Shakespeare said,
“like a sickness and its cure together”
but it’s really like two different
things occupying the same
place at the same time

my body is the middle ground
where I meet you and leave you
where I fight the silence
and struggle with the words

my memories are the junction
where I preserve you and evolve you
where I lay what we’ve promised
next to what we’ve proven
like two pieces of glass
interpreting the light, twice

we have built a solemn place
for some dreams to die with dignity
while the intimacy of surviving
teaches us new ways
to fill up the undefined
by reimagining glory

we cast long shadows on moments
where there is nothing else to do
but sit in what will soon be forgotten

here, the winter, here the unrelenting
the darkness happens like seeds
in barren biomes
but I can always find you at the heart of it
and find myself in the knowing

Honeymoon’s Over

It echoes in pairs,
the love that you speak
in times of self-doubt,

once to mark the moment
and once to to see
how it measures up to the silence

when you’ve conquered the obvious demons
and it’s no longer about gathering courage
but rising above the oppressiveness
of the ordinary,
weight of routine on your shoulders
cursed mirror on the mantle
household objects that are
never where you left them
feet dragging from day to day

and the voices return,
the ones that used to tell you
you are not capable of the love
you are professing

they’ve changed their tune
since the wedding, now they say
love setting you free is a myth
and you are too small to break
past the cookie cutter dream,
the identical houses on numbered streets
and carbon copied joys darting glaces
at the neighbor’s greener lawn

the surfaces don’t reflect
all the colors back,
and after a while, parts of you
feel erased after so many tellings

you used to say it because you believe it
now you say it because you need it,
need to cross the t’s before
you go to bed and you wonder
whether it still matters

it’s no longer the unknown that kills you
but the complacency that the chance
to paint the next installment of blue
on the sky you promised, to tend
to the roses of the summer you promised,
will always come back around
after you miss it.

Let your voice ring messy.
Let the dirty dishes soak,
the movie on the screen run unpaused.
Let your muscles concede defeat
to the fraying of the long day.
Lay it down over the furniture,
over the ironed and meticulously
folded clothes: the romance of
possibility replaced by familiarity,
the disillusionment of compromises.

But speak your love.

Speak your love as a bridge
across all the times you’ve said it before,
because time fades the words,
but it also peels away the layers
that are too tired, too calloused,
to caught up in the static
to stop in wonderment at the beauty
of a love that stayed true.