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I’m sorry I always called you that name you don’t like, but I know it’s not why you won’t talk to me

I realized today that you really don’t like me. I said hi and you looked away. you’re taking her away, I fear. the two of you will swallow her whole until she can’t hear me at all, until she’s so accustomed to the soft, pink flesh of your stomach that my voice will frighten her. it will never be the same. she and I will never live our dreams together, but more so, she won’t want to. her indifference will stab like a steak knife thrown and meant to hit someone else. perhaps, though, you were aiming it between my eyes all along. maybe I was too close to see.

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about that time we went to claire’s office which is really just those steps outside and I sang for you and kathryn and showed you that poem and you asked if it was about me and I said yes, and told you what I couldn’t say out loud and that’s when I knew all that mattered was you, and me, and kathryn, and the quiet, brooding sky

whoever made your eyes didn’t color in the lines.

they left the coffee to trickle into the wind

and to soak into my skin and my fingernails

and to catch there like freckles or planets in orbit

around the metaphor of our breathing in the same way.

the sky had swallowed the colors that sit beneath the ocean,

spilling the sand from our pockets out on the steps.

the gritty concrete hurt our hands and our legs

but we stayed as long as we could, and maybe

you don’t remember but you told me my voice was beautiful.

and I know you meant my song, the way that I warbled

the word prayer, but your voice is beautiful too,

the way you sing, too, but differently—I read somewhere

that melodic voices like yours mean you know

the texture of what I am trying to say to you.

which is that I want to be old with you, to smile toothlessly

with you. not like in the movies with rings on our fingers

but I mean like thelma and louise, except that we

might live forever. and I know this might taste heavy

and too rich in your mouth, and I’m sorry if it does.

but have you seen that movie where the girl says

let’s go somewhere and the boy says sure, where

and the girl says madagascar and the man says

I can’t and the girl says why not and he says life

and she says why not and he says life.

and they each grow old in that moment, separately,

and the silence is the entire ocean in my throat.

so when I see you next and you say hello and I say

let’s go somewhere I don’t really mean madagascar

but will you say anywhere and I will say home?

pero en realidad, yo sólo lo vi dos veces

(but really, I only saw him twice)

I. My hands in his, he says:

“I Will Teach You Salsa.”

I half-smile and raise one eyebrow,

my feet already doing the steps, but I say:

“yes, teach me—“ in English,

because my words are less certain

in my own language. He talks

to a burly man with skin the color

of café negro, and somehow American pop fades

into a mix of Spanish guitarra and drumbeats

and a man singing “Dame tu mano, señorita.”

II. The sour smell of tobacco digs

its dagger into the left hemisphere

of my brain. The clank of a glass

of rum and coke on the sticky table

next to me jerks me

out of scarlet salsa music.

“One Shot, One Shot, Sólo Uno,” he pleads,

prodding sacred fragility.

“no, no, no, no, no,” I say,

“i can’t, not here, with you.”

He grips his glass.

I. And he caresses my waist,

so, so gentle, like he would something close

to birth or to death. “One, Two, Three, Four,”

he says, “Un, Dos, Tres, Cuatro.” He counts

the moments of our enrapture

unfolding; as the last drumbeats echo

in this open casita,

he pulls me through the door.

We talk poetry and song, familia y las estrellas,

and he tells me salsa is in his blood,

salsa en su sangre.

II. His smoke burns my cheeks, the rum

replaces my hand in his.

He holds it like he would a pistol

loaded with nostalgia. He says,

“It Will Be Fun, You’ll Like It.” He says,

“Just One, Just One.” His words are more certain

in my language. Chains of cigarette smoke and rum

circle memories of our hands,

our cream and coffee hands, and rip

them down the border of salsa dance

and sticky tables, of hands on waists

and the condensation on his glass.

bananas and milk

When you escaped to the kitchen,

my footsteps echoed yours up narrow stairs.

You stood waiting for me, ready

with two bowls of bananas and milk—our comfort

food, our shared consolation.

We shook restless dust from our shoulders,

brushed it beneath your cupboards.

You pulled your mother’s tarot cards from a shelf.

They were fiction to us,

but you told me you could read my quickening

heartbeat in their hieroglyphs.

I tasted bananas and milk and the bitter

salt of the future where it doesn’t belong.

attention to the syntax of grandfathers

your trifles escape catalog

and index,

their sparkle indefinite:

the brittle veins of fallen fire-leaves—

the catharsis of cold water down your spine—

the rupturings of twigs beneath heavy footsteps—

the throaty pulsation of catching your breath—

the worlds between your thick digits—

your cardiac;

your coronary;

the arteries of the hospital beeping and pulsing together,

the bassline of your singing. you never

sing, I never hear you sing, but today—

at the outer rings of breath and solitude;

the outer rings of cells and nuclei;

an apostrophe to a best friend, or a relic of one

because I don’t have someone like you always,

because I don’t want to need it always,

because you won’t tell me what I already know,

because you run from silence and tears and secrets.

because you wouldn’t tell me if something was stuck

between my teeth, or if my mascara was running.

because I can’t tell you straight out,

because you wouldn’t come to me if something wonderful

or something horrible happened to you, and

because I know that I would go to you.

because you never know what to say,

and don’t even pretend that you do.

because I think you wanted me to talk to you,

but you never told me you did, and I never could, anyway.

because I feel the space where you should be

beside me, but instead of calling you, instead

of you calling me, I write a poem to you,

and I know I’ll never show it to you and especially

you’ll never know it’s to you.

a still life of platonic passion

Will you tell me what fills you with milk,

show me the delicate pink muscle of your lungs,

reveal your neurons like coral in your skull?

Will you expose the papier-mâché of your bones,

give me your soft, beaten hands,

will you let me touch the bruises on your knees?

May I fold your feet into woolen socks,

brush the matted hairs on the back of your neck,

oil the rust of your vocal chords?

Privacy is no constitutional right, but I forget you breathe it.