To the Man For Whom I Wrote My First Poem

I have written so much about you
that I have run out
of poem titles
and writing surfaces
and ink in my pens.
But not words.

You never had enough.
Words. Love. Attention. Commitment.

I hate that I spent that last night in your arms
and everything seemed simple and happy and real,
and knowing that memory is tainted now
because now I realize you were already gone.

I hate that you arrived before I was ready.
All the days I asked you to be somewhere
the jokes you made about how you never got anywhere fast
and for this, to break me, you were early.

I hate that you wore the shirt I bought you.
That I relived the memory of you surprising me at work,
laughing and giving me fuck-me eyes in the dressing rooms
not knowing you would never do it again.

I hate that it took you so little time to say it.
Three years ended in five minutes
when you dropped every flaw I had
onto my floor for me to review when you were finished.

I hate that you stood in the doorway of my bedroom to apologize,
six feet from a wounded animal, but you didn’t dare step closer
because I might get sad, or rage, or go wild,
and you knew you drew first blood.

I hate that I didn’t mean enough to you to bother softening the blow.
You knew the words would sit on my skin like slow-burning acid
but you threw them on me without warning,
because once you’d discarded me, I wouldn’t matter anymore.

I hate how fast you ran,
once I said those steady words to release you,
that only a few seconds clicked by
before you weren’t there anymore.

I hate that you didn’t come back.
I sat perfectly still, listening to that melancholy ticking,
waiting for the sound of your return
and for hours, not allowing the tears to fall.


I hate that after everything,
I still seemed “cold” to you,
when all I ever tried to be
was the girl you fell in love with late at night,
who stood on the catwalks and let down her hair for the first time,
who acted like she could take on the world and win,
and who was breathless when you leaned in for that first kiss.

I just tried to be the girl who waited in the shadows covered in paint,
whose spine you traced with your fingertips when no one was looking.
The girl you broke into places with after hours
whose hand you held as you climbed the stairs in the silence.
The girl who laid on the floor and looked right up at you,
who you said you were addicted to.

I hate that I changed for you.
I gave up little pieces, chipped away parts of me,
carving and maneuvering,
making myself smaller,
trying to fit into your life.

I never belonged in your life.
I hate that you didn’t tell me.


ghost light

it’s the space.
standing a hundred feet above the world
gaps between beams beneath your feet,
one misstep and you’d freefall.

it’s the light.
catching the dust swirling everywhere,
we all leave our stories on things we touch
and no one wants to wipe it away.

it’s the color.
the red velvet of the two-story curtains
and green jealousy over black lace,
it’s feeling blue and standing in yellow light.

it’s the music.
notes soaring into the catwalks
harmonies dancing through the seats
a chorus of joy swirling in midair.

it’s the people.
a pile of friendships overlapping on the couch
legs dangling at the edge of the stage
and someone’s laugh echoing in the wings.

I miss the questions,
the ones I always had the answers for,
because life is simpler here, like
“Am I allowed to eat in costume?”
“Time check please?”
“Would someone run lines with me?”
“What fell backstage?”
“Can I borrow someone’s script?”
“Does anyone have a mint?”
“Where is my (prop)?”
“Do you have a pencil?”

I miss the weight of the headset
the microphone by my lips
waiting for the phrases that
I don’t use anywhere else, like
“Quiet backstage!”
“Ten minutes until places.”
“Move downstage left.”
“Standby cue four……and go.”
“I need you back onstage!”
“Can you fly that back out?”
“No eating in costume.”
“House is open….”
“I need you to mute his mic.”
“Can you enter from upstage right?”
“Gather for notes!”
“Find your light….”
“Places, everyone!”

and my favorite of them all: