i have no right.
no right to words, no right to expression, no right to feel.
not on this.
not on this theme, not on this situation, not on you – no
not on you.
i gave up my right.
my right to your voice, my right to your laugh, my right to your eyes.
how can i be allowed to miss you when i made the decision that separated us?
i felt that panic. i pronounced those words.
i abandoned you, left you here and then i returned and i pushed you away.
i feel broken. but how
can i be broken when i have broken you?
your gentle soul, your beautiful heart.
your eyes, the tears that fell, the darting movements
if they happen to find me in a crowd –
they haunt me.
i don’t touch your hands anymore.
i am guilty
but i feel lost.
i don’t write anymore.
have you noticed?
i haven’t written since you.
i was a poet, once.
but only when you inspired me to be so.
now i recount personal narratives from a time spent abroad because those stories convince me that it was worth it.
never quite there
because the panic still comes
the tears still fall
i still spiral and the constriction on my lungs returns and i can’t breathe and i am retching and –
i miss you.
it feels like a dirty phrase.
pathetic when i utter it.
insensitive vulgarity, who do i think i am –
bitch, slut, disappointment,
ostracized because i am past-tense, present no longer.
i know the words,
those words uttered between cigarettes and bonfires
while dark figures huddle in their coats and sip coronas.
i know those words
without hearing them
because i have told myself, i tell myself
they are present, not past,
they come and go, drift in and out, visit and leave once more.
but they don’t abandon me.
they never abandon me.
in the periphery
in the scrapbooks on my shelf
in the shrouded box of photographs
in the bear who still guards my bedside.
disgusting self-pity that i can’t shake from my skin, my hair, my clothes
it’s under my nails, i can feel it
infiltrating my body, my thoughts,
and i am choking again
and at this point i can’t see the words i am writing because it’s a blur of tears and memory and i just want
after such a time
how can we have nothing to say?
i have a chest of letters.
it is buried, hidden. i don’t want to see it.
i looked through once. sobbed.
carefully closed the lid and stashed it away and tried to forget.
but its presence haunts me
because i remember the words on those pages,
dutifully dated and saved so that i may one day surprise you
with a handwritten inked declaration of my love.
i wanted to write to you to explain myself,
to explain what happened to me.
i couldn’t bring myself to do it.
because i didn’t want to destroy the memory of those letters of love –
unaware of them still, you could never know,
but how to hurt you with “sorry” and “the right thing” and “change”
when so many heartful professions of love remain there unopened?
so i fill the silence with songs that sound of you.
connections real or imagined to kisses in the library,
nights on a trampoline under stars,
tea in the car on the way to the station,
the touch of hands in a pizza parlor.
i wanted to marry you.
if i talk, will you listen?
if tomorrow i disappear, will you notice?
i have no right.