Extract from Do Not Read With A Broken Heart : Relationship Lyric
It’s not fair.
How do you get it back?
Today I cried about you.
For the first time in months,
I lay in the half-glow, resentment in tears.
I got to love you, but now we can’t remember each other’s good anymore.
– – –
Two years ago I shuffled my naked back down your bed so that my hips were under yours. You said you were 5’5 on a good day. I’d been sure that I’d wait. Five dates until you’d drop your hips against mine. I promised myself. But it was the first night and I was wearing yellow shorts, the thin ones that hugged too high and too close. I asked you, what would you do if I took off my shorts right now?
For the first time, a woman made love to me and I didn’t walk straight for days.
You licked your lips before every kiss.
No matter how caught off guard.
A sweep of your tongue from right to left.
I’d see that and know that what was next was mine.
My lips are always dry.
My sister had said that when you love someone, really love them, you can’t pass a human hair between your bodies when you sleep. We fell asleep with our noses touching every night, holding hands. You’d always go first and I’d consume the night by trying to breath in when you did, out when you did. I didn’t want to take too much of your oxygen.
I hated being in the world without you.
When you were asleep I felt sick with longing.
– – –
Tattoos you had and I didn’t: FREE WOMEN on the back of your neck. PARIAH across your chest. I’d try to pull the back of your shirt down to show everyone that I was one of the freed.
Two gold teeth on the right side of your mouth. A gap the size of my tongue, turned sideways, between your front teeth. I swore your mouth was more precious than mine, but you said I had a motor in my mouth that you wanted to drive. Gold to the grindstone.
The first time you saw my nipples you said you were angry with everyone who had sucked on them before you.
I could listen to your stories of Chicago for hours. Of hunger, of needles in the back- alleys. Of your father who kept padlocks on the drawers full of guns, how he would pace at night, barefoot, with a shotgun, listening to Vietnam, beaten loud at the ground-level windows.
I bought you roses to mark a year since your mother died. You ran 24 miles that day but you couldn’t run from her. You told me that when she passed,
a space for a new women in your life opened.
But she left too big a hole.
And I couldn’t make myself heavy enough to fill you.
You said if we ever broke up you would regret that I wasn’t the mother of your children for the rest of your life.
When I asked you two years later, you said you were glad I never would be.
– – –
You taught me about tea, how to read James Baldwin and Malcolm X, how to eat lentil soup on the sub-zero streets, how to put my hand into your glove so we could still be skin on skin. I cried so many times that winter, we re-named Chicago, Cry-cago, Cry-city. Mostly I cried with your fingers deep inside of me.
We were the power couple.
After our first night together, we lay in the sun on your porch. I wore that orange dress that had been taken off so many times, the night before, that it wouldn’t stay on my shoulders anymore. I measured the spaces between your eyebrows with my lips, between your nose, the piercing to the moon of your top lip.
I didn’t know that a human could be so perfect. I was already more afraid of losing you than I was about having already had the best of you.
– – –
One night we made a meal so spicy, we both lay on the ground and tried pregnancy breathing, slow and controlled with our pores open and angry. Then we forgot. And I spent the rest of the night in the bathtub trying to wash hot pepper from between my legs. I knew I loved you then because I could only laugh between the tears.
You took care of everything but water bugs and roaches. Your father has taken you down to the basement and asked you to put out your two small hands. Five years old, with your eyes closed he’d gifted you with two handfuls of biting, winged bodies. You never trusted your two hands with eyes closed again.
Baths were never alone. You’d ask me to sit with you, on the mat, knees against porcelain. You’d rub soap on your lips and then kiss me, hard, my mouth full of clean water and bubbles. In the shower we’d slow dance, our back beating water for rhythm. I’d nuzzle my head into your neck and cry. I’d never been so naked and so warm in my life.
– – –
It’s always the same:
We can’t go back.
We can’t undo how it ended.
We can’t start over.
We don’t remember the people we used to be.
How quickly things go wrong.