To My 16-Year-Old Self

They tell you you’re not in love, but you are.
Isn’t it terrible? To love so selfishly, so
completely, is the opposite of love, they say.
But you know the truth.
It is all there is.

You think you know death, but you don’t.
You’ve read all the books, studied your Plath
and Goethe and the Brontes that matter,
but not from beneath the heavy blanket of sorrow.
You believe you won’t live to see 30
but that your father will live forever,
his Superman heart racing on.
But it will stop. You still
grieve for lost moments
without knowing why.

You are not unhappy, not yet.
That will come in time. Breathe
now, while you are invincible.
While there is nothing
to expect.

Navigation

Like a sailor I will chart a course
across your brow, its fine lines, creases
I have loved before I knew how to find
you, how to look to the stars and see
where I belong: between Orion and Cassiopeia,
the space where neck meets jaw
and constellations beget lights
immeasurable, immense.

Pisces

Beside you I mimic the sea,
all tides and currents

washing away silt and sandbar.
I am set off by moons,

the light drowning scent of salt
that covers our skins.

Magpie

There is an empty nest in me.
Each day I add to it.
Paper, twigs, string: I weave them with moss.
It is a shell, shallow and wide.
Inside I store rings of amber and glass
scavenged from the black road.

Last night I plucked the blue from your eyes.
Then I embroidered the nest. Far above the jays sang,
their cries circling the edges of me,
one not of their own.

Wound

A cut
on the roof of my mouth–
to tongue it hurts.
I forgot the sweet
pain of reconnecting
tissue. The pearls
of bone beneath,
maxilla and mandible,
slivers of teeth you’ve loved.
Today I ate the leftovers
before they went bad.
Each bite stung.
I practiced swallowing
the ache with the taste
of your mouth,
its dear milk.

Words

Allow me
to draw alliteration
from your lips–
let stark consonance
drip through the sieve
inside me to melt
the constant winter.

Archeology

He says a coelacanth stirs
each moment we’re alone,
long and slow: something old
below the surface, timeless,
unknown. I am present,

I think,
as he speaks of long-ago
extinctions, fossils
dug with fingers smudged
in dirt. I experience
him similarly, spiral
ammonites of past lovers
hiding beneath the hard
sedimentary layers, only
my skeleton knowing

death is rediscovery.

Eyes

Roman à clef eyes:
I do not trust them,
their clear and earnest
lies. Give me gunsmoke
and fever burning,
a collection of wars
deep inside, striking
reality without fiction.

First Date

Will you unzip
me? My dress,
yes, but all other
parts besides: a
tongue locked behind
teeth, thin nails
hooked against a palm,
a chest tightened
fast by old stays.
Is your sweetness
of word enough
to begin?

Directions

“I want to be a compass of you,
your every location
a common place
to my pilgrim’s touch.

Erupt and replenish me:
your volcano self, fertile ash
that I till into gardens;
the amazon banks of your rivers
from which I pan gold.

This is an understanding,
the north and the south of you:

Beneath the polestar
where I wait, the movement
of auroras to guide me

home.

Written for Denise and Dave for their wedding, October 2, 2011.