I can’t remember the autumn we went mad together. There was a time when all I wanted to do was say sorry. It was the same months that I couldn’t finish my morning mascara without crying it all off. It was the same season that I lost 35 lbs. The same season that I only wrote about you and pretended I wasn’t writing about you but everyone knew I was and nobody wanted to say anything because they knew that I would crumble right there in front of them. It was the season of loss and grief and letting go of the parts of me that had hardened and cracked me in half.
You were all the holes in my favorite sweater. You were the thing I wanted to throw away, but I was scared my mother would be disappointed. You were the perfect lover for a woman that I was never going to be. You were gentle and kind and too many fragile pieces for my hands meant for digging.
The day I fell in love with you was the day you wore those plaid pants. We sat in the back of the theatre and you couldn’t stop sweating. I was wearing fishnets. You kissed my entire body the way a painter touches his painting the moment he knows he’s finished. My hair was long and yours was short. We danced down the street and we couldn’t wait to be alone that night. To be in the dark, in the silent, in the space that only we existed.
I can’t remember the last night we slept next to each other. I only remember you in the dark sitting under the window. The storm was so thick, the blinds so fragile. The candle had withered away and we had no more to light. We were so far apart in that dark room, I couldn’t even make out your face.
The day we broke, I can’t remember the color of the walls. What I wore or who I spoke to. I only remember hearing your voice cut through the silence like a buck knife. There was no one else. There was no one else worth remembering- not even myself. That autumn, I learned how to tuck myself underneath all that shit we’d piled on top of our love. All that yelling and all those things we couldn’t remember how to let go from our fists.
I finally stopped calling you, but I never stopped wondering how your heart was. There is not a man that I love more than you, and there is not one that I hate as much, either.
Most days I think of you more often than I don’t. Sometimes I cry and I can’t explain to anyone why I’m sitting on the streetcar covered in my own snot. There are days when everyone is chanting your name like a dare I can’t get away from, and days I can’t see you at all.
That’s the thing about love- it never really leaves, it never really stays, either.
My fire-eating career came to an end
when I could no longer tell
when to spit and when
Last night in Amsterdam,
1,000 tulips burned to death.
I have an alibi. When I walked by
your garden, your hand
grenades were in bloom.
You caught me playing
loves me, loves me
not, metal pins between my teeth.
I forget the difference
ignition and cognition. I am a girl
vices and you have a filthy never
mind. If you say no, twice,
it’s a four-letter word.
You are so dirty, people have planted
flowers on you: heliotropes. sun-
flowers. You’ll take
anything. Loves me,
loves me not.
I want to bend you over
and whisper: “potting soil,” “fresh
cut.” When you made
the urgent fists of peonies
a proposition, I stole a pair of botanists’
hands. Green. Confident. All thumbs.
I look sharp in garden
shears and it rained spring
all night. 1,000 tulips
burned to death
We didn’t hear the sirens.
All night, you held my alibis
so softly, like taboos
— Daphne Gottlieb, “Why Things Burn”
Your god is Old. He killed children
in Egypt, murdered lovers in the night,
swept sinners dead in a righteous wave.
He told Eve she would die
if she ate the apple, knowing
that he had already planted the seed
of the tree of Knowledge inside her.
He lied. He stole. He coveted.
Just because you create something,
doesn’t make it yours.
I will not be Job. If god tries
to tear down my house, I will
not weep. I will build it up again myself,
with my own hands.
That god is not my god. I am New.
I will walk with children.
I will love and learn to swim.
I will eat apples and drink coffee
and build towers.
I will wear flowers
from that old tree
in my hair.
II. At twelve your body becomes a currency. So Jenny and I sat down and cut up all our clothes into nothing. That year I failed math class but knew the exact number of calories in a carrot stick. I learned early being desired goes hand in hand with hunger.
III. The last time I tried to scream I felt my father climbing up through my throat and into my mouth.
IV. There is a certain kind of girl who reads Lolita at fourteen and finds religion. I painted my eyes black and sucked barroom cherries to red my tongue. There was a boy who promised Judas really did love Jesus. I learned early every kiss and betrayal are up for interpretation.
V. I think he must have conferenced with my nightmares on exactly how to hurt me.
VI. He never broke my heart. He only turned it into a compass that always points me back to him.
— Clementine von Radics, In Defense of Loving Him