More than once the silence the naked boy on rumpled sheets who looks at me with wide rabbit eyes while I continue stroking skin pretending not to notice his sudden stiffness wondering how is it that those easy words weigh heavier than lost sleep and borrowed books and handwritten letters and twisting tongues why is love where the line is always drawn and when will I hear it back in return.
When you lie on your back, eyes closed and I snake my fingers and tongue into your flesh, I always think of you calling me by the wrong name. It never happens, but my own name remains a small shaking animal in your mouth, afraid of those who might hear it squeak. Alone, I sit in the dark and look at your photos on a screen. Imagine what it must have been like to run fingers through long hair and soft skin. Something inside of me clenches, then blooms as I imagine sighs in another voice, one softer, sweeter. When I think of love I can only see you holding her in your arms.
Write a poem about an unexpected desire, yours or witnessed.
I wonder what you were thinking the night you kissed me. What you were looking for. If my lips were as inviting as another cold can of beer. If I was wine, something you wanted to suck between clenched teeth, held on just a little longer in your mouth so you could tell yourself you cared for what you tasted. If I was just a quiet pool you could drown yourself in.
I am too afraid to ask. All I know is that when your lips meant mine, I thought it like standing in the heart of a dying star. How very bright and warm it all is. And after the flames had burnt themselves out, how very lonely.
Maybe Tin Man had been the one to go to the witch. Begged for a new body, one that would armour him against sweetly smiling Munchkin girls, forgetting that the brain is not the only organ that remembers. When the witch took his arms, his new gleaming ones had no memory of the way it felt to wrap himself around flesh that parted and gave to his own, and he wondered why his chest seemed to hurt more than ever. He still had the bruises on his knees from falling down to beg her to stay when they were replaced with cold shining tin, and he forgot the way he would fold himself down to kiss her forehead each morning. It was a puzzle to him why he had stayed as long as he did. Finally she took his heart and with it the memory of pain, so he forgot what it why he went to her in the first place. As he chops wood, rusts away in waiting, he wonders what love is like, and how it would taste.
I just called myself and I heard myself answer. I waited, tongue-tied, wondering what my other self would hear if I spoke. If our universes would explode if I did.
They say that you hear yourself differently inside your head from the people outside. I sound shriller than I thought I did. You say hello again, annoyance sharpening the rounded sounds leaving your lips. In two seconds you would repeat yourself, and then you would hang up so I have to say something if I ever wanted to. I hear myself – my own voice – ask if you fucked yourself over as much as I have. If you are happy. I ask if you ever get a fourth shot at love. I ask if you met him yet – here I drop the name I refuse to ever say aloud, even in my head. Your breath is a well-worn ribbon, threading through the airways to wrap around my lungs. You ask who is this. You ask if I am a prank, and I know you have also walked all the wrong twisting paths I have. Our hearts speed up and I know both of us are crying. The universe did not combust, but it is pressing down hard on both our chests. We always wanted the ability to shout, to come up with the worst, most cutting things anyone could possibly say in the moment, but we can only sit still in the silence that follows, listening to each other breathe.
Friend provided me with the first two lines and asked me to figure out what happens next.
When I am done, I twist the words up, make a rope from nothing more than tender nervous sentiment, and cast it out into the sea. I wait for them to find their way to you; a line stretched spider-silk thin, which you could brush off without thinking. But still, I hope. At night, I dream of your hands and the way they curled against my skin. I think of you standing along the shore, finding a thread gleaming faintly against wet sand. That you will pick it up and hold on.