Published on Academy of American Poets (https://poets.org)


Underbelly

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
before: flesh

against flesh. I won’t make a dull promise.

Credit


Copyright © 2019 by Nicole Homer. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on September 25, 2019, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem


“I was in a workshop, actively not thinking about my private heartache when I—the group—was told to write a love poem. I wonder about the impulse to persist, to try again, to love despite all evidence suggesting one may not be well suited for it. I'm trying to reconcile optimism with honesty and the statistical likelihood of not only failure, but injury.”
Nicole Homer

Author


Nicole Homer

Nicole Homer is the author of Pecking Order (Write Bloody Publishing, 2017).

Source URL: https://poets.org/poem/underbelly