brimming

I never told you that I set fire to your hat.

You probably suspect that after the explosive, catastrophic end of “us,” I threw away everything of yours. Any photos, clothes, belongings that you’d left in my car. I got rid of them all; they still made me panic, still held the fear of you, and I wanted no reminders that you’d been in my life.

Nearly a year passed before I found your hat, crushed between possessions in the back of my trunk, the space usually reserved for long-lost umbrellas and old receipts. A black corduroy newsboy cap.

When I found it, I stood frozen in place and stared at it for several minutes without moving. As if I thought it might attack; as if the memory of you inhabited it, and it might speak to me.

I remember that I left it there at first. I stood there silent for several minutes — which would have looked extremely strange to anyone watching — and then, for no apparent reason, I closed the trunk of my car and walked away from it as if I hadn’t seen it. For days I pretended it wasn’t there, that I had imagined it.

That’s the thing with holding on to an ex’s belongings — you have to do something with them. You either decide to keep them, throw them away, or ignore them. But with ignoring them comes the inevitable downside: that they are still physically there, all the time, lingering in the back of your mind as “To Be Dealt With.” And until you make that call, to keep or to destroy, you haven’t really gotten free of that ex. They still have a hold on your consciousness, which is almost worse than giving them a hold on your heart.

Almost.

I went back to the hat occasionally, opened my trunk just to stare at it. It became a strange, ritualistic kind of compulsion. It was like I needed to assure myself that it was, in fact, real. It was something To Be Dealt With, but I couldn’t quite bring myself to touch it. There were too many ghosts in the fabric. I was scared that it would smell of you, of whiskey and cigarette smoke and paint thinner and charcoal. I worried that touching the brim would bring back memories I’d tried so hard to erase.

So I’d look at it, and resolutely close the trunk again.

Months passed, and I nearly forgot it was there again. It took a bright, hot, sunny summer afternoon to chase away the chill in my bones. I’ll admit I spent several minutes in indecision, but I finally got up the courage to move it. I picked it up and felt some relief in the fact that it was as it appeared; just a hat. Just a scrap of fabric that had no power over me.

I still put it down as if it had burned me, on a shelf in my closet where I could close the door.

Moving it into my room, however, turned out to be my own real-life version of The Tell-Tale Heart. I felt like you were in the room with me sometimes. It seemed like any moment you would appear, asking me why I’d never returned your hat to you.
So finally one day when no one was home, I took the hat outside, and pressed a lit match to its brim. There were tears in my eyes as it caught fire.

I felt like I had slain a dragon.

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mornings with you

spent the dawn surrounded by pillows
my lips touching the inside of your wrist
breathing the smoke of your heartbeat
your hands running through my hair

the scent of coffee opened my eyes
and we curled together in the blankets
curling our hands around warm mugs
and sharing caffeine kisses

we spent the day bathed in sunlight
my cheek against your chest
your fingertips dancing along the back of my neck
and our legs in a tangle of touch

when I wake up to your eyes on my face
I carry it with me all day
like a pilot flame in a fireplace
or a sparkle in the eye

 

sinful seven

when I got up this morning, his voice stopped me —
I had an idea, he said.
so I said, tell me.

he said, there are just as many deadly sins
as there are days in a week,
and I just don’t buy that it’s coincidence.
I think we ought to match them up
and feel them, one day assigned to each.

so I laid back down in bed
and I said, tell me how it would go.

on Sundays we would cater to our Gluttony
begin with coffee and end with red wine
savoring each bite of every taste on our tongues
a never-ending meal of anything we liked.

and on Mondays our Greed would take hold
making green-eyed monsters of us
take, take, this is mine, I want it
the world is ours for the taking.

then on Tuesdays we could unleash our Wrath
snap our collars and race after those who have wronged us
throw punches, use teeth and claws
scream at the top of our lungs until we feel like stopping.

our Wednesdays would be our Pride
spend the morning with our mirrors and the afternoon
reminding everyone of all the things we do
we are gods among men and they need us to survive.

every Thursday our Envy would surface
and we could finally admit that we covet
I want it, I want it, I hate that you have it
we could tell you how it hurts to see your success.

and Fridays would be for Lust
we could arch our backs and spread our legs
take home a stranger just because we want to feel something
and spend the day losing control.

by Saturday our Sloth would take over
spend the day among a pile of blankets
only moving when we had to
just to light a candle or pick a new book to read.

so there it is, he said,
tell me what you think of it.

it would be delicious and sinful and perfect,
I told him,
if you were actually here.

so I left the seven deadly sins
lying in my empty bed.

reckless

i come with a storm warning
tempestous,
tumultuous,
temper

i am a monsoon
my tears are raindrops
lashing against your walls
and flooding into your body

i am a tornado
my fury a swirling vortex
against your skin
wreaking havoc and destruction

i am a thunderstorm
our touches are electricity
a whip-crack of energy
curling you into me

i am an earthquake
my ideas are tremors
vibrating against your lips
a quiver of something

touching,
teasing,
tempting
i come with a storm warning

daughter

you are powerful,
you will breathe fire
give names to your enemies
and fight with teeth and claws

you are free,
run until you can finally breathe
all the way to where the sand ends
and curl your toes in the joy of dancing waves

you are unstoppable,
the set of your chin
and the grit of your teeth will say
that you never let a thing go once you’ve chosen

you are special,
watching gears click together and apart
knowing the music a note should make
and touching every heart you meet

you are so fucking beautiful,
let your rosebud mouth enlighten the world
and your sapphire eyes will see them all
fall in love with every piece of you

yesterday

Yesterday the moon glowed in the sky
now it huddles in its sparkling blankets
and hangs against the indigo ink
hoping not to be extinguished.

Yesterday a touch meant comfort and warmth
now it’s the cracking of bones and teeth
fingertips crumbling to ashes
and blowing away, dust on the wind

Yesterday laughter rang like twinkling bells
now it simply mocks,
rasping against the tears
like cruel sandpaper on a still-pink scar.

Yesterday was all logic and physics
now smoke is set to simmer and boil
while water droplets spatter
born from the tips of flames

Yesterday the grass grew tall in the breeze
now the earth has been scorched
leaving only a wasteland of
ashen wishes without space to move

Yesterday there was enough air
now the walls are closer together
moving in like a predator for the kill
constricting everything but the memory of you

nothing to say

I have no words today. No poetry or stories.

My heart is broken. My beautiful dog is gone.
You were my confidante in tough times and my playmate in good ones. You were the best listener in the world. You were pure joy, running the fastest laps anyone’s ever seen and understanding far more words than any other dog I’ve ever met.
You were smart, sweet, and beautiful. There has never been a dog like you.
I’m not religious but I hope there’s a kind of heaven waiting for you, because I accept nothing less for you, princess. I never met a dog who deserves it more. I hope they serve steak and bacon every day and that you never have to get your feet wet. I hope you’re playing in the sunshine AND the snow, since you always liked both, and that no one ever clips your nails, since you hated it.
My world is a little darker without you, and you will forever have a piece of my heart.
Rest peacefully, my sweet girl. I love you more than the earth.

 

casey

ten-second chaos

there’s this way
to deal with the chaos.
it’s the ten-second rule.

whenever devastation hits
whenever my world starts to crumble
I allow myself ten full seconds
in which to fall apart.

ten seconds of
panic, pain, drama.
when I reach ten, I’m done.
that’s all the self-pity I’m allowed.

(one)
life as I know it
(two)
has turned to ashes and smoke.

(three)
there’s a band of ice
(four)
constricting my chest.

(five)
my face is soaked
(six)
in mascara and devastation.

(seven)
love cannot be real,
(eight)
for why would anyone choose this?

(nine)
my heart is splintering
like the shards of cruelty that caused this.
(ten)

ten. ten. ten.

I made it to ten
and I am still here.
ten.
I can feel my lungs moving,
so I must still be breathing.
ten.
when I wipe my face,
I can still see my eyes.
ten.
though it feels worse for wear,
my heart is still beating.

I made it to ten,
so I have not
been beaten yet.

always make it to ten.

almost doesn’t count

you were decaf coffee
on a morning I needed a jolt of caffeine
you seemed close enough to normal,
and I didn’t realize the difference until I felt it.

you were a shot of heroin to the vein
of an addict who had been clean ten years
you were the devastation
of that one final high.

you were a blazing campfire,
the smell of the smoke invading
skin, clothes, hair, breath
and when the flames died you lingered,
the scent pervasive and stale.

you were my car key
when I needed to unlock my house
the idea should have been right enough,
but it was not at all what I needed.

you were a walk in the woods
during a thunderstorm
I felt sheltered and yet
I was in danger being near you.

you were fireworks
sparkling in a black ink sky
waking me up from deep sleep
fun but explosive, and always poorly timed.

you were a teacher, turning to face the class
just at the moment when
a note passed from one hand to another
smiles all around, but the laughter is forced.

you were almost.
almost right.
almost normal.
almost okay.
almost doesn’t count.

the call

you always pretended things mattered
less than they really did.
we hadn’t spoken in a year, almost to the day
when you called again.
I didn’t answer.

your message said
it’s been awhile,
I was wondering how you were.

your message didn’t say
I’m sorry, I miss you,
I wish we were still friends at least
I wish that I had loved you enough
I wish I could have found a way.

you said
I heard a song on the radio that put you in my head
and I wanted to share that moment.

you didn’t say
I’m sorry I stood in the doorway
and watched your heart break
and did nothing to heal the pain.
I’m sorry I walked out of the house
and left you sitting on your bed for hours
waiting for me to come back.

you said
I don’t know why everything reminds me of you,
I don’t know why you’ve been on my mind.

you didn’t say
I’m sorry I kissed you that night
and was engaged the following morning.
I’m sorry I never mentioned her
when I knew your heart was still mine.

I heard
a laugh, an inside joke,
an unspoken wink.

I didn’t hear
love, wishes, atonement, regret,
any attempt to change.

how self-serving, I thought.
a message about you
reminding me that you still exist
and that I loved you
and that you are still not mine.

I pressed delete.