Love Poem to Myself, Number Five
Forty-two. That’s how old you are
when you finally put down the knife
aimed at your own chest. That’s how
old you are when you finally begin
to love your own precious body.
You’re not quite sure what did it,
but suspect that seeing disease winnow
and wither your weight away tore your
eyes wide open. Made you see what
marvels had been there all along.
You even love the pocket of abdomen
fat that droops below your narrow waist
now— have looked it straight on
in the mirror as you change, and smiled,
patted your little kangaroo pouch.
(When I say narrow, I mean compared
to the rest of you. You are all hourglass,
the inward dip of your waist feeding
right back into full hips. Your breasts
are pendulous and large. Delicious.)
This year, the year you finally begin
to love yourself, is also the year you
can’t stop wearing orange. Orange
velvet wiggle dress; rust orange swing
dress; skirt rung round with delicate fruit.
You begin to associate orange with self
love— dying streaks of tangerine into
your pink hair, smearing on gleaming orange
liquid eyeshadow, sliding orange daisies
into the raspberry and russet of your hair.
It only turns into a bit of a sitcom episode
when you decide you really need an orange
jumpsuit. When you look them up, you’re
shown mostly Halloween costumes of people
as prisoners. Perhaps you’ll hold off this once.
But not for long. Soon you’ll find the next
perfect orange thing. And you’ll look into
the mirror as you put it on, whispering
just this, over and over: I love you. I’m sorry
it took me so long. Sometimes orange is hard
to come by. I love you. I’m sorry it took me
so long. You’ll cradle your little kangaroo
pouch, then glide your brave, thick body
into something orange and satin and sweet.
I love you. I’m sorry it took me so long.
The Kind of Woman I’d Write Poems About
She’s the kind of woman I’d stay up all night talking
with, her giggle a balloon animal. Inching my own joy
closer to the ceiling, where hers wiggles its tail happily.
She’s the kind of woman I’d buy blue velvet dresses
for, chain daisies through her rainbow of soft hair.
We’re both pale, voluptuous. Small hands, chipped nails.
I want to take her to Rehoboth in Autumn, when
the season is just dying down. When there are still
boardwalk fries, but no boardwalk people. I want
to show her the blue and white hotel with the prints
of seahorses on the walls. I want to leap through waves
with her, barefoot and cackling, glee hooking to pink clouds
that swirl above us. Sanderlings darting between our toes.
She’s the kind of woman who loads up her cuddly
hatchback with snacks and luggage, when you fall ill
and desperately need to see a small heap of doctors.
It’s literally life and death— she eases in beside you.
Grips the wheel, phosphoresces. Fends dirge-dark away.
She’s the kind of woman who asks questions; who
actually cares about the answers; who talks in rushes
of bubbles, but always leans in to listen as well.
I tried to tell her how I feel tonight, as we sat across from
one another in a crowded sushi restaurant, and we both
nearly turned to tears. Ever since Kat and Heather died,
I’ve thought I would never love friends that way again.
She’s the kind of woman who makes me think I’m wrong.
She glows in the dark, human turned constellation, and doesn’t
even know it. I’m not falling in love with her, but there’s
a trail of pink calla lily petals leading from my heart to hers.
Friendship is its own sort of falling when you do it right.
I don’t mourn the dead less tonight, but I do sleep more
soundly. I memorize the downbeats of her laughter,
the alabaster arc of her cheeks when she smiles. It’s past one
a.m. when she finally leaves my room for her own, next door.
Her pearled nails are glittered newly teal, and she scoops up
a slice of cheesecake our server gave us for free. Even in black,
she’s so colorful, the room undulates. I turn my bedroom lights
off, squeeze my eyes shut, practice glowing in the dark like Clara.
First Christmas in Baltimore
CW: Sexual Assault
We crunch through mounds of grey-soured snow, arms
linked loosely, on our way to the corner hardware store.
Every year, you throw a Christmas Party for those who
would otherwise spend the holiday alone. You need white
twinkle lights. Need a sturdy shovel to clear your front
walkway. A bag of rock salt. More than once, you catch
me at the waist when I slip on a smear of ice. We have
known each other for twenty-two years, and I trust you
more than anyone in all of Baltimore. Still new in town,
I spend too many late nights alone, eating Indian takeout,
cross-legged on a blue velvet couch from the sixties.
In the hardware store, there’s an enormous orange cat
named Gingerbread. A suspiciously festive name.
You gather twinkle lights, shovel, light bulbs, all while
I pet Gingerbread. You going to steal that fat cat?, you whisper
into my ear. I startle, then laugh. Shrug. I’m considering it.
We stop to get frothed cups of hot cocoa on the way
back to your home, cupping them close to our cold-bitten
lips. I remember urging perspiring cans of Mug Root Beer
from the rickety vending machine at YMCA camp. Offering
them to you, rose-faced, stuttering like a broken metronome.
Now, twenty-two years later, you usher me into the warmth
of your yellow row-home. I have something for you, you smile.
My hands leap to startled lips. I thought we’d said no presents.
In the corner is a two-foot tall, light-up tree that matches my
pink hair precisely. I glimpse my reflection in tinfoil branches.
I don’t come to your Christmas party, but we have regular
take-out Korean nights at home. Watch sci-fi classics, and
even once, the newest Pee-wee Herman movie. We sit
in the sun, eat spicy corn fritters and brie cooked with jam.
We cuddle, but it never goes beyond that. Your friendship,
you promise, is worth far more than sex. Soon it’s the day
after New Year’s, and I’m drinking vodka alone. My first
drink in a decade, but for no reason more than curiosity.
You call me, insist on coming over. Don’t worry, you say.
I don’t mess with drunk people. I just want to take care of you.
I am giggly. Woozy. We curl under the oceanic swells
of my teal comforter. I just want to be two sleepy cats.
From there, my memory is hollowed out, is mostly holes.
A worn-out loofah or a hunk of cratered black rock.
I have snatches of hazy recall— a tongue on my nipple,
teeth at my hips. I hear the crinkle of condom wrappers.
Our calls stop after that night. No more good morning messages.
It takes me two years to call what happened what it really was,
and takes you four to confess and apologize. I don’t take your
confession letter to the police. Consider that payment for
the pink tinsel tree crammed in the back of my deepest closet,
which I somehow still can’t bring myself to throw away.