This Is What You Are

missing Melissa – dust turned to waves
in the desert – okra coming up two months
too late – a forward breaking gate opening
into someone else’s field – I walk by
a window and I do not understand how little I see
you – but so clearly the wasp backing out
of a hole inside a long dead
tree – when we were children we lived
with our grandparents and I remember without
sadness mostly the sound of tires screaming into
the street – the porchlight welcomes
whatever intercepts it – I praise
insistence – I kiss
my love because our best friend died
when we were 5 years old – a brain tumor –
and then again at 7, 11, 17…43 – bodies
killing themselves by growing
beyond their own capacity – I am building
a bed for our visitors – it is infuriating how little
I understand about re-joining wood already broken
piece by piece – anticipate everything
I hear God saying to no one – I am still listening
when you stop, for a moment, breathing
in your sleep – I am recognizable
now as a part of the man who made me –
every man is a suspect – inside my own mouth
I am annoyed by who I cannot seem to be –
do you miss this Melissa – every part of our body
is ash aching to be reminded it is ash – unlike fire
reaching through the face of every forest
in order to be incited by wind or offered
some relief – I’ve learned to flinch
by standing absolutely still – it isn’t death exactly living
without you – the purpose of a rope
is to borrow someone else’s strength – that’s why
I’m calling you – when I pray I hear nothing
so clearly as our new voice
singe-scoured and full of disbelief –


Originally published in American Poetry Review. Copyright © 2019 by TC Tolbert. Used with the permission of the poet.