Stay busy. Good thoughts. Good
karma. Go running, go shopping, go
out with friends, splurge on a pair
of shoes you’ll only wear once. Feed
your dog, your cat, your pet fish. You
are okay, you are okay, you are okay.
Go to bars and let a boy buy you a
drink. Let him whisper dirty things in
your ear as he wraps
his hand around a disappearing wrist.
But remember: you do not owe anyone.
So many things to do and it is okay,
you are keeping busy. Take showers
that are too hot, showers that burn the
sadness right out of you. Sleep with
the lights on. Tell your friends that
love can be expensive as you decline
their attempts to fix you up. The bar
has been your best friend all these
years. Ignore how your sheets smell
like too much wasted love. You have
things to do. The little sadnesses will
pile up: seeing him, not seeing him,
how you weren’t enough to change
the tide, the wrong boy texting you the
sweetest things. It is okay. Someday,
you will be beautiful again.
Stay busy. Good thoughts. Good
If I didn’t think it’d make me appear crazy still,
I’d apologize to you for having been so crazy then.
Reading the poems I had written about “us”
resurrected all that nervous heat, reminded me
of the insistent stutter of my longing,
how I could never just lay it out there for you.
The answer, clearly, would have been
no, thank you. But perhaps that tough line
would have been enough to salvage all
that was good and woolly about us: your laugh,
that golden ring I’d always stretch a story for;
the pair of mittens we’d split in the cold
so we’d each have a hand to gesture with;
how even now, the paths we took are filled
with starry wonder and all that bright limitless air.
I’m sorry I could never see myself
out of the twitching fever of my heartache,
that I traded everything we had for something
that never ended up being. But if I could take
any of it back, it wouldn’t be the glittering hope
I stuck in the amber of your eyes, nor would
it be the sweet eager of our conversations.
No, it would be that last stony path to nothing,
when we both gave up without telling the other.
How silence arrived like a returned valentine
that morning we finally taught our phones not to ring.
The sleeping, the eating, the grocery
shopping, the cleaning, the awake,
the bathing, the sex, the running, the
deep sharp tug in the belly of it, the
hellos, the goodbyes, the edge of the
blade, the kisses, the bitter end, the
better beginning, the constant phone
calls, the endless voice mails, the
letters you wrote when you pretended
to be a writer, the underside of your
arms when you told me to stay, the
way that even the backs of your knees
blushed when we whispered secrets
behind cupped palms. The innocence,
the fresh sting of it, the unknowing
and then the brutal knowing of it all,
the way we fell apart and then found
our way back. The promise, the sin,
the breaking. The leaving. The going.
The always. The never. The yes. The
sweetest thing you ever said. The
craving. The digging. The finding.
Your daughter’s face is a small riot,
her hands are a civil war,
a refugee camp behind each ear
a body littered with ugly things.
doesn’t she wear
the world well?
You were eight the first time. Didn’t
realize what filthy was until you had a
boy navigate your body raw with his
fingers. It was hot that summer,
humid and sticky and there was
sweat in new, secret places that he
liked to lick off. For him, your body
was the Last Supper. He engorged
himself on your thighs, your barely-
there chest, your shiny new mouth.
He liked to hide in the pale quiet of
where the world begins. When he
let you down from the fence you ran
all the way back to your house and
didn’t realize until later how he’d hung
your body naked like a crucifixion.
Years later, over coffee, you tell me
how you don’t think you could ever
forgive God, that yes has become
your catchphrase, that boys pile up
in your head and you tend to forget
their names to make letting them go
easier. You tell me that you use them
to fill up those abandoned places
inside of you, that you drink to make
it easier, that you’ve licked your fingers
of love over and over again. Mothers
now use your name as a cautionary
tale and anyway, you prefer to be on
your own. You tell me that somewhere
on a shelf in the apartment where you
live, there’s a jar with his heart in it
collecting dust, wasting away: your
prize for being a good girl.
In America, there are
a few things you can
count on for being
always open: Denny’s,
Seven Eleven, the diner
that no one actually enjoys
but everyone eats at,
the only Chinese buffet
for miles, Walgreens, AA,
coffee shops filled with
insomniacs and addicts,
gas stations, Walmart,
ATMs, women, always
unlocked, always the gate
with no keeper, yes, come
on in, we’re open.
- Sierra DeMulder
Really should delete your number
but I keep it as a reminder, as some
small consolation prize that our
paths ever crossed. I miss you like
I always do and all I want to do is
call you and tell you how I spent the
day masturbating to the sound of
your voicemail but oops I shouldn’t
because you have a new girlfriend
now and you’ll probably let her listen
to this message. She probably
smells really pretty, like roses. Do
you fuck her on a bed covered in
rose petals? I wonder what your sex
is like, if you ever think my name
when you’re still inside of her. Tell
her I say hello. Tell her that she’s not
going to be able to stop everything
from falling apart. I miss your mouth
and your hands and your body but
don’t tell your girlfriend that, don’t
tell her that I miss your body moving
like a sheet against my body or that
I miss your voice oh god your voice
tell me a story tell me how I’ll regret
this in the morning, mascara ringing
my eyes and red lipstick smeared
on the mouth of the wine bottle from
telling it all of my secrets. Tell me that
I tried to be unaffected and sexy but
that I ended up calling you instead.
This is how I learned that “no”
cannot always save you. That
your hands are a prison. That
shame is something the body
becomes. It has been years since
I’ve met my own eyes in the
mirror, years since I’ve undressed
myself with the lights on. I do
not know where to put my body
when a boy looks at me like I’m
able to save him. I cross the street
and look both ways. I do not
always wear a seatbelt. I do not
like the finality of a pen. When I
dream of you and your basement
and your mouth and the shadow
of your body and the way you
said my name, like it choked you
on the way down but that you
loved the violence of it, I wake
and fumble for the light switch.
If I saw you now I probably
would not recognize you. Do you
know how terrifying that is?
Learning to love my body is still
not an easy thing. I stand in front
of the mirror and trace what is
reflected back at me: long limbs,
rounded shoulders, the wheeling
nipples that hang from my breasts,
rose-brown. I curl a lock of dark
hair around my finger and tug hard
on it. I wrap it around my neck like
a scarf. Like hanging wire. Is this
how I’d want them to find me?
Naked, suffocated from too much
hair, too much me? He tells me that
I am beautiful, that I am his favorite
address, that if he could he’d crawl
right up inside me and die there.
I don’t think I could handle it, being
a grave for two. There is already so
much. The magazines say: reduce,
erase, minimize, blur. We are not
beautiful until we disappear.
I remember buying groceries with you;
remember how we’d pick out dinner
together for each night of the week.
Usually we made pasta, or you’d want
things to make sandwiches, soup. If
we had extra money we’d buy things
for fondue. When I go to the store
now, I try not to think of you as I walk
the aisles, try not to think about how
you’d pick up an apple or a head of
lettuce with the kind of reverence you
usually reserved for my body. I try not
to think about you framed in the fresh
produce section or among the cheeses
or the refrigerated pizza dough. When
I stand in line at the deli, a ticket in my
hand, I can’t help but to think of all
those women before me who stood in
line, waiting to be called, wanting to
save you and thinking that they could.
After Carrie Wittmer
1. Google could probably spell
that for you.
2. I hate that you only text me
when you’re drunk and that I get
drunk just to text you back.
3. Be honest: does this make me
4. I loved you for all of a split
5. I Googled our astrology
compatibility and realized
we’d be a complete disaster.
6. If I wanted to talk to you I
would have replied an hour
7. Stop wink-facing me. What
does that even mean?
8. Have you ever thought about
me while masturbating?
9. I called you and your girlfriend
answered and now I’m pretty
sure she thinks we’re fucking.
10. Just to be clear, I’d never
sleep with you.
11. Do you even know what
a library is?
12. Why are we even friends.
13. That time you butt-dialed
me as as you were breaking up
with your girlfriend.
14. Please delete my number.
15. You make me so sad.
16. I wish I cared more, but
Happy Hour at Starbucks is
more important than you.
Write his name onto
a piece of paper until
both sides are full and
the letters could be a
part of anyone’s name.
Write his name until
they are just letters
with no meaning. It will
be difficult to see why
you loved that
combination of vowels
and syllables so much.
When you begin to
remember, burn it.
Accept the unacceptable: he is not
coming back. You did all that you could
and he is not coming
back. Delete his number from your
contact list, scrub his fingerprints from
your face, your hair; wipe
clean the imprint of his body against
yours. Find a new hobby. Learn how to
care for a garden or join your
neighbor’s book club. Accept the
unacceptable: he is not thinking about
you. You are the last thought
in his mind, you are a billion light-
years away, you are the newest planet
they found: KOI-172.02.
Accept the unacceptable: his girlfriend
is prettier than you. It is not something
he realized until
after, but it’s done now and the first
time you see them together after, you
compare yourself to her,
and then call your mother for
reassurance. Try to forget the way he
made you feel all burned out
and exhausted, like you couldn’t keep
up. Forget how he kissed you, how
sometimes he would
look at you and you’d give up anything
anything anything for that look, even
your own sanity.
Accept the unacceptable: you are
better off without him. There were
nights where he refused
to touch you on claims that he was too
tired, too not in the mood. Remember
finding that phone
number inked onto the back of a
stained napkin, buried deep into his
pocket that Saturday morning
you decided to do laundry. Remember,
remember, remember: You are not
meant to be together.
You are not puzzle pieces designed to
fit perfectly. When he tries to call you,
do not pick up. Erase
his message before listening to it. You
cannot save him. You are not the first
that has tried. You
will not be the last.