JUXTAPOSITION

A lot of things simply cannot exist together.

Cats and bubble baths.
Paperback books and spilled glasses of milk.
Love and dishonesty.
Innocence and knowledge.

The universe demands that these sets of objects
remain separate, uninvolved with each other,
divorced from all possible contact.
It is the universal law of long distance relationships.
To intermingle them would be
to create chaos, to toy with dangerous flame.

But yet some things are made to exist together.

Sidewalk cracks and yellow dandelions.
Buttered popcorn and cinema screens.
Two sets of eager lips.
Your heart, a hummingbird
fluttering in my hands–
I knew from the moment it landed
that it was meant to live there.

I live for the things
you would not expect to exist together.
For the unexpected perfect fit–
two wrongs lining up to make a right,
opposites not only attracting, but
making sweet love out of the very
conflict of existence.

You and I.
I never expected to love you.

But I do.

I love you like waking up early
and accidentally stumbling upon sunrise.
Like random chance.
Like snow in October.
Like coming home after years
of searching everywhere to find it.
And you clutch in your hands a red carnation
so bright against the gray September rain
it could have been mistaken for fire.

ON TWENTY

A promise to myself—
to never forget it.

Your seventeenth—rosy cheeks
and trampolines— we put the sky
to shame that night. High as hope
and invincible, our hands sealed together
like melted candle wax, clinging
to a new color buzzing in the air.

The color of first love.
A flame turned forest fire.

I remember every detail—
vivid, brand new, the sound
of your laughter an unwrapped present
with the tag still attached.

Back then you were Boy
with sunlit hair and a voice
you hadn’t quite grown into yet.
You electric-shocked my life
into shades of scarlet red
and I will adore you forever
because of it.

You invented new colors for me.

But today you are Man–
roots firm, unshaking,
no longer too big to fit
inside your frame.
Now you could squeeze
the entire universe within your ribcage
and still have enough room to love
the way you always have.

I haven’t forgotten that night.
Seventeen. Invincible.
I never will.
A promise to myself,
and to you—the one
who taught me to fly.

Soar for me.
You will go far.
I can already feel it.

BEFORE BLOOMING

There is an element of innocence I cannot get back.

A catalogue of a life I took for granted:
Waking in my childhood bedroom, Saturday morning,
peeling pink paint falling in petals from the walls.
Fried garlic in jasmine rice– a breakfast aroma,
my mother’s lilting hum from the kitchen–
the only music my ears miss hearing.
And I, self-proclaimed Rapunzel,
A princess in pajamas, eyes still sticky from
the sweetest dreams.

Waiting for someone to save her–
whether it be Prince Charming on a white horse,
the neighborhood boy on his bike,
Jesus nailed to the cedar cross on the wall,
or the words
she has yet to find.

Someone, something,
somewhere to belong.

The one in which you love someone else

You ask me what I am thinking
through the static phone line, your syllables
reaching the vacancies between my ribs
like they always do.
I say, Nothing much, really,
like I always do–
words falling short of truth,
lips inept of forming the precise words
to mean I am thinking of everything.

And what I mean by that
is I am thinking of what kind of shampoo she uses
and whether or not she observes you
tying your shoes past midnight
as if she were witnessing instead
the genesis of Light–
God Almighty crafting all we can see
with his bare hands– and yours
looping the white strings together, pulling tight
and around again.
And I am thinking
of whether she writes poems
about how the strands of your hair invented
the color gold itself
or whether you take her to lie down
in empty fields, under gray skies
and cold autumnal breezes, and how
all of this is neither jealousy nor desire,
just wonder.

I wonder
does she pray for you?
Would she even die for you?

But I say, Nothing much, really,
remembering what it was like to be her,
and let the dream fall to its death.

SHE WHO HOLDS FIRE

a short series of revelations that came to me on a 7-mile walk around campus alone in today’s beautiful pre-autumnal weather
• I am capable of doing brave, hard things.
• The past provides for soil, not sunlight. It is good for grounding, not always for growing. Appreciate your roots, but do not let them serve as anchors.
• Soul-searching is perfect therapy. Especially when it involves an overcast sky, no agenda, enough cold chill to cut to the bone, and a good dose of headspace. Discomfort can be comforting.
• I can make anywhere home. Home is not a physical location. It is a state of heart.
• I will always be an artist regardless of whether or not I am consistently creating masterpieces.
• Forgiveness is everything. Especially with yourself.
• I am made of fire and I am enough. No matter what, through every season, always. This is a non-negotiable, indisputable fact of the universe. Even the trees know it— they always seem to remind me. (And yes—you are, too.)

SACRED SECRETS

Tender afternoons tangled in your bed
sweat flirting with skin, sheets
a foreign language I am still learning to speak—
written by hands clothed in sunlight and sweat.

You are golden—
melting under my fingertips,
a man made of liquid velvet.
You cannot possibly be sin,
only sweetness.

This is Heaven
I did not have to die for.
It is the closest thing to holiness,
this orchestra of nerves— my push
and your pull— I feel God
for the first time in my life
hearing your heart race
to the tempo of our creation.

I am Eve in your mouth
and you are Adam in mine,
not my fall from grace

but to it.