a nameless thing

There is a name
but I refuse to call it
I am searching for another
but nothing can carry

It is starting to look like loss
like my very being
has given itself to be used
by a thing I do not approve

I forbid it often
I reach far into myself
the self I know can birth victory
and ask Is this who you are?
the answer is No

So I reach beyond the lines (again)
to prove I am who I say I am
It is easy work some days
On others, it is lodged in my throat
like a pill and will not go down

Butter mint

This is softer
made with coconut oil
white with red
stripes around the bend
does not break
when I bite
does not labour
the roof of my mouth yet
holds like fingers would

This one takes me back
to the hour after vigil
walking around the bend
lightening bugs cackling
feet brushing against tarmac
my arms around her neck
my weight pinned against her back

passing through

I heard bullets leave particles as they pass through fabric. They tend to cling for decades or more. The night you left, you shot through fabric on the clothesline with a force that left me breathless. I had been waiting for months for you to come back for me. It rained and parched and bellowed in all that time.

Bracing for impact. Your words rolled off the edge nonstop until you were empty and I was full. Full of questions I didn’t dare ask. Full of questions I know I should have asked. I remember silence digging its heels into my spine when everything was being taken from me. I remember because I was on the floor in the dark and I was shaking from all the breaking.

That didn’t stop your leaving. When has it ever? When has an already bleeding body stopped a bullet from cutting through new flesh? When has it stopped a shoot to kill? The particles revolved around my dizzy bones, seeped into my blood, compounded my love and pinned me further to the ground.

I was never meant to be your home. Twelve months of manipulating a tourniquet and changing bandages and I finally understand that I was somewhat of a lingering, a place to lodge, and you were merely passing through.

Two West African Girls Talk Love

Adora: Whenever I think I have love figured out, something (or someone) brings me back to the drawing board. I love that you’re in a healthy relationship so I’ll put you on the spot. What is love, and do you think you’ve found it?

Esther: Love is good. In spite of the variations of love I have encountered, one thing is unchanging – Love is good. Like you, I go to the drawing board often and i’m back there again. This time, this love is honest. This love sheds itself to be known. This love has shown scars I didn’t know I carried and is sturdy in ways I didn’t know I needed. Do I think i’ve found it? I think so. This feels a lot like the real deal. What does your drawing board say about love?

Adora: I find it interesting that you said your current love is honest. Honesty was never something I actively looked for in love, because I viewed it as a given. Life has shown me that an honest love is key. Love should not make me want to filter my thoughts, nor should I have to read between the lines when it speaks. I am reluctantly coming to terms with this: love is a necessary but insufficient factor. I no longer harbor lofty notions of a love that conquers all, and it breaks my heart – this logic business; this cruel loss of my sense of wonder. I am officially an adult. Of course, I need commitment, the knowing that my love will show up, again, and again. That it will choose me every morning, and that on most mornings it will not feel like a choice. Do you think love can exist without commitment?

Esther: You are right to think of honesty as a given. The best part of this new honesty is that it is kind even when the subject matter is one that could easily bruise. It is one that allows for growth after careful examination of facts and feelings. I have had to come to terms with the insufficiency of love as well and it sucks that love really doesn’t conquer all. That you could give love as best you can, more than you have ever given in your entire life and still lose. It is a painful truth. And the wonder? I think I may have lost a bit of that too. A thing could be so wonderful and yet we must leave room for the complexities of the human heart because it changes things in significant ways. As for commitment, I think love cannot exist without it. This life is a whirlwind of things and you kinda need someone who is willing to stand with you in it and through it as often as they need to. That’s a huge amount of expectation and trust to put on a person. It makes me nervous. What scares you the most about love?

Adora: Falling out of love. Or worse yet, heartbreak. Falling out of love is its own form of heartbreak. I have a low pain tolerance so I don’t do heartbreak. So far, I have only been enchanted by people who expressed a healthy dose of affection towards me. It doesn’t guarantee an absence of heartbreak but it increases the odds of a good epilogue. Love bothers me because I can’t control for all of the unpredictability that comes with my partner’s humanity. A part of me is convinced I’d only find true happiness if my partner is John Legend meets Steph Curry meets Harry Styles (i.e. perfection). Is there a trait of yours that sometimes sets you back in relationships?

Esther: Off the top of my head, I can’t think of any significant trait. I mean, I am far from perfect and I get scared a lot. Actually… I think I have one. I find that at the beginning of something good, sometimes I feel the need to run (in the opposite direction). I think this is my mind’s way of protecting me from the possibility of something going wrong eventually. If I don’t go any further, getting hurt isn’t an option. But I always ask myself, What if this is doesn’t hurt? What if it is better than you could ever dream? Of course, no one knows how anything will turn out, we can only hope it goes in our favour. I strongly believe that there is nothing that can happen (to me) that I will not survive. And I mean, if push comes to shove, i’ll get a poem or two out of it lol and it’ll all be alright. Have you ever had to move on from a person? What was the hardest part?

Adora: If push comes to shove, i’ll get a poem or two out of it. I love you, Esther. I’m a bit of a “hopeless romantic.” I believe in soul mates and happy endings. I must confess, I’m the farthest thing from a serial dater. I think it comes with being an introvert and my natural inclination to keep myself to myself. The hardest person to move on from was my post-high school boyfriend. I think it was really tough because there was no one else crazy enough to take me to iHop at 2am for ice cream and pancakes. I swear 75% of my heart break stemmed from my missing our midnight food hunts. So in line with my penchant for romance, favorite date of all time?

Esther: Me too! I’m pretty optimistic and I used to think I wasn’t a hopeless romantic but I am. Not a serial dater either so I can be a little too careful when it comes to these things (I see why we are friends lol). I see why moving on from your post-high school boyfriend would be hard. Night time hunger pangs would always be associated with him and that’s just stressful. I think eating and food hunting together is so intimate or maybe i’m just weird haha. My favourite date has to be my most recent date. We had a little moment (i call our arguments moments) on our way to the restaurant but by the time we got seated, we were laughing and teasing like nothing happened. The food was delicious and way too much. I put our phones away so we could really be present in the moment. We talked about everything we could think of. Oh, we were sitting next to this beautiful fireplace and it was perfect. After dinner, we went to get drinks at a bar and like a true feminist, I offered to pay for drinks lol. SIS! I DIDN’T KNOW DRINKS WERE SO EXPENSIVE, especially the Patrone Gold (obviously never getting shots again). It was a fun night and I forgot my toms so I had to wear my heels the whole time. Ugh.

Adora: You are adorable. I hear you on the feminist struggle. I try to be super mindful of my bank account, but I’m all for treating him when you can because he is my little princess, haha. Catching up with you is my favorite thing. Let’s do this again?

Esther: Lol yes, men are princesses too. I’ve enjoyed this catch up session. Let’s definitely do this again.

Young Love

Young love
owns the bodies of those who
go about the task of

carving a shelter on the
altar of desire and naked
affection. The kind that

grows like the night sky
claiming a territory
already weak at its knees.

Neither of us knew what lay
grunting in its keep. No promise
of earlier days could protect from

the falling away of
hands that swore to hold
everything, especially themselves.

We are only as brave
as the songs we play in loops,
as the stories we tell ourselves when
yearning for a different truth.

Everything is worthy of saving,
if we trust enough to try. We don’t
have to wait for a sign anymore.
Let’s save ourselves for now.

Layers

this is about us. the layers we come in. how after a couple months. depending on closeness or comfort. we shed. revealing skin. soft like cotton candy. skin. rough to touch. and as the days hum into months. we unravel. layer after layer. slowly. quickly. slow ly. then it stops. and we are down to slivers. it ends. and we are naked. so we begin a journey back to old places. picking up. and putting on. again and again. buckling and smoothening. only to take them off for someone new.

Order of Events

At first you feel everything
and then nothing.

Then the most terrible sadness
laced with delicate love.
Then a sliver of hope-

maybe it isn’t as bad as it seems
maybe there’s a chord that fits
enough to make it sound like a song.

some happiness
some sadness
more happiness than sadness
then sadness, far from benign
then nothing.

Anger.
burning through your sleeves
burning down the truth you
desperately want to be true

And then you just want to forget
everything.

even the best memories
even the dearest, most beautiful moments
(of your life so far), you want to forget because

for you, they are creating an even
greater grief- having felt.
having seen.
having been.
but you cannot forget

and that in itself is a tragedy.

After five on a winter day

We almost miss your anger
when we walk through the door.

The air cracks like a shell
as we busy ourselves unbuttoning
jackets and untying shoe laces.
The air is still cracking
as we oven-roast vegetables
and pan-grill chicken for supper.

The air cracks a little more
as I hear her in the darkness
softly tell her mother
she would take away the roof
over your head if you weren’t
blood.

I fall asleep thinking of redemption,
of the ways we could restore,
of things to do to save us,
of how this could be forgiven
but never forgotten.

Seven reminders

1.    You should recognize when love starts to feel like suffering.
2.    Be careful the excuses you make for the one you love. Especially knowing that if your love for them was taken out of the picture, their actions would be unacceptable.
3.     A lot of terrible things can happen when you forget who you are.
4.    So don’t forget who you are when you give love. Don’t forget you can pull the plug if it’s draining you.
5.     Don’t let one cloud darken your home. Remove the broken light bulb. Leave it empty. The sun will arrive any moment now.
6.     Letting go isn’t as easy as uncurling your fingers. It isn’t as easy as releasing your grip. It is a meticulous undoing.
7.     This will take time. Take as much as you need.

Wind Mills

The ones who stayed
and braved the storm (together)

looked a lot like us
(had we dared to survive).
In love and leaning against
each other’s spine. Holding back
the wind that came to rip away.

The force with which their tragedy
arrived met them ill prepared.
A force so strong it swept
them to surrender. Now,

they are on their bellies
hanging on to the crook of
each other’s hands. Praying
with their eyes closed and
veins strained because

there isn’t much choice when
the pillar collapses nor is there
a way to keep the ground from
shaking. There is only the need to
survive and the blades are rotating

with enough conviction to generate
a spark that will transcend pain.
I see them in the middle of this
cyclone rotating clockwise

I see them tattered, when it calms,
still holding on by the fingertips.

We could be lovers

Five minutes ago, I was standing in the shower, hot water splattering on my chest, thinking about how we could never be lovers; because for you, I may be too serious.

But then I thought, maybe we could be lovers because we know each other. Because the first time we met, we were eleven year olds who barely knew a thing about anything, thrown into a world we did not know how to navigate. In this world, our clothes hung on our bodies for dear life because we got skinnier by the month. Because home felt farther than it was.

We could be lovers because we have watched each other out grow versions of ourselves. We have shed old skin, grown new ones and repaired broken skin we still needed. We have loved and not-loved but returned to loving again and again. We have fought. I have called you names. I have promised not to tell you anything ever again but you are still my safe place. I still tell you things because you know me. You accept me. You make it all feel small. Fixable.

Thursday night was our make up night. Bible study from 7pm to 9pm. Each time we fought, we could never get past a Thursday without relearning forgiveness. We had two hours to lift the rug and make sense of the broken pieces beneath it. I saved you a seat next to mine or you saved me one and we would sit there still a bit angry, pretending to listen while the tension between us rose like a leaf in the wind. We sat there with our throats dry and our hearts loud in our ears waiting for the first words to arrive. I cannot remember who was braver of the two of us but we walked out the hall feeling like our worlds rhymed again.

We have moved to a new continent yet we still love in the most infrequent ways. In three day old text messages and un-returned phone calls and face timing every six months. We share old jokes, old pictures, I love yous that we really mean and I miss yous that are always felt.

We are now twenty-two year olds. We talk about healthy eating, social justice, the legitimacy of christianity . We laugh (a lot). We still tell each other things we wouldn’t tell other people. Beneath the laughter, we are stripped down versions of ourselves. We share our biggest struggles; the losing and finding ourselves in cycles. We have created a dynamic that would drive normal people insane but for us, it works.

I talk about how I was such a bitch in junior high. You say “not really” a softer version of “yes really”. We call each other on nights we cannot breathe, on days it feels like the world is closing in on us and we are our last chance for air.

We could be lovers because five years ago, I watched your father drive off with you in the front seat and I thought I would miss you forever. In February, we stood in middle of a busy mall as though it hadn’t been five years. As if it had only been a week. But you could tell, couldn’t you? that we had changed, physically and in all other ways. That time had carried us through winter and fall.

We are different. You are different and yet our love feels the same – even stronger, even better. Effortless. It’s what I love most about it. There is your voice in my head, your face in a smile, your square shaped nails with its white tips and there is your handwriting, the one you changed to an uglier one in js2 because it meant you were older. I am your biggest “you-are-going-to-do-wonderful-things” and you are mine and perhaps I would be different without you.

We could be lovers but we shouldn’t be. Because at least we have each other to run to if our lovers crack us open. If our lovers leave us bleeding. We could be lovers but there is a method to us and it will not survive the heartbreak of a failed us. We could be lovers but there is not a thing in the world that compares to the ridiculousness of us; this creation. We could be lovers but I will always be too serious for you.

the other side of truth

the truth isn’t always something we can grasp.
not because it isn’t real but because
sometimes the truth has thorns that will
journey through your defences. the truth
can in fact call forth blood.

the truth isn’t always kind or fair or soft
but we ask for it
we demand for it
as if it is meant to bring us warmth
as if it is supposed to bring us comfort
sometimes the truth is that lump in your throat
that song on the radio
that hand around your neck
sometimes the truth arrives and we cannot stomach it
because it’s nothing like we have imagined.

sometimes the truth breaks us
into pieces. Sometimes,
it doesn’t set us free.

Survival 101

Perhaps this is why the world refuses to stand still.
Perhaps being in constant motion is the only thing
keeping us from being crushed
by the weight of everything we lose.
Perhaps this is why we mustn’t stop
even when everything hurts
even after the world around us has taken on new colour –
a shade darker that we have ever felt
Perhaps this is when we force our lungs
to hold more air, our hearts to carry
a little more tenderness. Perhaps
the only way we can survive
is by living right through it.