Wouldbelove, do not think of me as a whetstone
until you hear the whole story:
In it, I’m not the hero, but I’m not the villain either
so let’s say, in the story, I was human
and made of human-things: fear
and hands, underbelly and blade. Let me
say it plain: I loved someone
and I failed at it. Let me say it
another way: I like to call myself wound
but I will answer to knife. Sometimes
I think we have the same name, Notquitelove. I want
to be soft, to say here is my underbelly and I want you
to hold the knife, but I don’t know what I want you to do:
plunge or mercy. I deserve both. I want to hold and be held.
Let me say it again, Possiblelove: I’m not sure
you should. The truth is: If you don’t, I won’t
die of want or lonely, just time. And not now, not even
soon. But that’s how every story ends eventually.
Here is how one might start: Before. The truth?
I’m not a liar but I close my eyes a lot, Couldbelove.
Before, I let a blade slide itself sharp against me. Look
at where I once bloomed red and pulsing. A keloid
history. I have not forgotten the knife or that I loved
it or what it was like before: my unscarred body
visits me in dreams and photographs. Maybelove,
I barely recognize it without the armor of its scars.
I am trying to tell the truth: the dreams are how
I haunt myself. Maybe I’m not telling the whole story:
I loved someone and now I don’t. I can’t promise
to leave you unscarred. The truth: I am a map
of every blade I ever held. This is not a dream.
Look at us now: all grit and density. What, Wouldbelove
do you know of knives? Do you think you are a soft thing?
I don’t. Maybe the truth is: Both. Blade and guard.
My truth is: blade. My hands
on the blade; my hands, the blade; my hands
carving and re-carving every overzealous fibrous
memory. The truth is: I want to hold your hands
because they are like mine. Holding a knife
by the blade and sharpening it. In your dreams, how much invitation
to pierce are you? Perhapslove, the truth is: I am afraid
we are both knives, both stones, both scarred. Or we will be.
The truth is: I have made fire
before: stone against stone. Mightbelove, I have sharpened
this knife before: blade against blade. I have hurt and hungered
against flesh. I won’t make a dull promise.
Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Homer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.
Wine drunk, ham-faced on the duvet. Cue feelings talk.
Should I have been more detached? Should I not have draped myself
on the heat vent wearing only my socks—like so?
Because he addressed me always by both names. Cooked for me when I wouldn’t eat.
Making Thanksgiving food for himself in October. Patron saint of the head start.
With his dog who spoke English, possibly other languages.
Trailing a red robe in the kitchen like he was waiting for coronation.
If I loved someone like that. A figure of questionable authority
figuring out which relics to preserve under cling wrap.
For the way he smelled like cedar. Mispronounced the names of plants.
There’s an airport & then there’s The Airport
From Which He Called Me On Our Second Anniversary
To Say He Couldn’t Love Me & Would Never Marry Me Ever.
At some gate there’s a specifically culpable airplane he was on for 12 hours, no contact.
There’s another woman & then there’s The Woman
I Knew He Would Leave Me For, there in a hotel with him—
there to soothe him, to believe, as I did, in redemptive sadness.
There’s regret & then there’s being so angry at myself
that I drove all night until I found the water & walked into it, March lakewater
gray & stinging. Muscovy ducks in the shallows, their strange low muttering.
What is this impulse in me to worship & crucify
anyone who leaves me—
I have tried to frame up the cavalry in gravel,
in rectangles, in an honor code
of stamping out the fire. I’m paying attention. Look.
There’s an exchange rate
for bad behavior. It begins with the word until.
I agreed to affirm small kindnesses
until disaster. A risk I could keep now & pay for eventually.
A contract that begets blame begets
guilt. I had to say at every stage I give permission to be hurt. Until.
Once he agreed to stay the night with me
& by morning a small ding in the glass had spidered over
his windshield. The cold shattering it completely.
It’s not anyone’s fault that this world is full of omens.
By all accounts, history is a practice
of ignoring things & hoping for the best. You can drive
yourself crazy with looking. You can expect
bad luck to mark you unfooled, fooled.
Light to mark you with light.
I know in this system I am not blameless.
I used to promise myself
that when we broke up I would tell him
I love you. I thought of it as a punishment.
I dreamed I let him look for me in the woods.
I stayed perfectly quiet. I was covered in rough scales
& my eyelashes dropped burrs when I blinked.
In the dirt below I watched him search for me.
He said Is it enough that I want to be different.
Maple seeds spun out from my hair.
I divorce thee history
of looking at him in the fog
coming up over Scotland.
I divorce thee, North Sea
longing by boat.
I divorce thee, insomnia.
I divorce me driving to him
five hours over ice
& then picking a fight.
I divorce him introducing himself
as my friend, never wanting to be
on the phone; I divorce thee
roasting pan & HGTV, I divorce
staying quiet willing him
to speak. Music for saying things
I wanted to ignore.
Anguish—I divorce thee.
I divorce thee, I divorce thee whole heart:
from the wingbone of a vulture,
I’ve made you a harp.
From Brute by Emily Skaja. Copyright © 2019 by Emily Skaja. Used by permission of Graywolf Press.