How not to feel alone within a love

I
Remember all the honey
thick & smooth against your skin
covered by hands steady from
soothing hard loving into dusk

II
Tell him you feel alone
Tell him fear comes to you like memory
brushing softly against your chest
leaning in if you don’t swat quickly

III
Sit still when he calls you love
in a string of words
that unpack your lonely
and leaves them out to dry

IV
Ask about an already laid plan
Watch the sun come to his eyes
the corners of his mouth shift to lift
his face then follow the tilt of his head
the swing of his fingers
the future is coming back to life

V
Play that song from Inside llewyn Davis
Don’t speak – If you missed the train I’m on
start soft when the chorus comes along
a little louder on the next lines – a hundred miles
remember Christmas – a hundred miles
remember May – You can hear the whistle blow
remember all the honey? – a hundred miles

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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.

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.

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.

Saturday Nights on 22nd Street

The floor still has little sand pits from when we danced with our shoes on after dinner on Saturday nights, Remember?

I always wore dresses; flowery ones with thin belts around the waist. You always had your sleeves folded right beneath your elbow and never wore black. You once said that black was the worst color for any party. Every Saturday night with you was a party.

Usually, I finished eating first but I would sit and watch you lift the fork to your mouth, wine to your lips, my hand to your skin. I sat there counting the number of good things I must have done without ever knowing, things that somehow brought you to me as a reward.

We didn’t do the dishes until Sunday morning. I dumped them in the sink while you hummed your way to our music station to play some music. You always played Dido’s “Here with me” first. Somehow, with some wine in our blood it seemed like the perfect song to start the second half of the night. We swayed in each other’s arms silently (as if trying to get in the zone), my arms around your neck, your hands around my waist, classic! You smelled like dark musk and alcohol, so masculine, my man.

By the second verse, you are tracing the curves of my face and telling me how much you love me without saying a word. By pre-chorus, we are laughing and gulping down more wine. We start singing at the top of our lungs once it hits the chorus, “I won’t gooooo. I won’t sleep. I can’t breatheeee until you’re resting here with me.” Your wine glass has become your microphone and you are putting on a full performance and I am laughing and singing between breaths. We love this song. It was the song we listened to your first night at my apartment.

The next set of songs has us taking turns performing. We aren’t trying to be decent or anything. We are dancing with every inch of our bodies, sweating and attempting to out dance each other. The room feels so much smaller because we keep bumping into ourselves and kissing every chance we get, and then Whitney Houston’s “I wanna dance with somebody” comes on.

We take a few steps away from each other and begin the choreography we did at our wedding. It’s been five years and we still remember every step. You have the widest grin on your face and I can tell exactly what you’re thinking, “I’m about to kill this choreo.” My hair is falling out of its ruffle but I am so into our dance, it doesn’t even matter. We get to the bridge and in unison start singing “Don’t you wanna dance? With me bebe. Don’t you wanna dance with me boy? Hey. Don’t you wanna dance with me bebe?” I am inching closer and closer to you, making every move count, twisting and twirling into your arms.

I have completely forgotten how terrible the last week has been. Finding out that we can’t try for a baby (just yet) is absolutely devastating and you do not remember that we might get kicked out of our house in exactly three weeks. In spite of it all, I am thinking the same thing I think every Saturday night. Something along the lines of “ I never ever want this night to end.”

odd days

on the first
there will be breaths that feel
like betrayal even though
you are walking through fields
of freshly cut grass and
sprouting sunflowers

on the third
the moon will seem
like a bloody show off
because the clouds you are under
are darker than your lover’s skin

the fifteenth will be a reminder
of that last kiss, the depths
it reached, of all the ways you’ve
had to fold your heart to make it fit

the twenty third will be you running
at full speed
against the wind on memory lane
not wanting to remember
not trying to forget

the thirty first is pure sadness
sinking further and further into mourning
wondering how much longer before
you hit the ground

or find answers.

we make do

We are sitting in a living room
smaller than what we are used to
The kitchen is a short L
with red pans and wooden spatulas
Horizontal shadow lines stretch across
reflecting the shutters in the night light
The zing of electricity leaves no room
for actual silence but we make do

We are islands away from our original home
Closer to the water than we are used to
but our jokes are the same. The same people
based, accent commanding stories of the
comings and goings of children and men
Of women who have nothing but their husband’s
names and post-baby bodies

The sky is getting darker, the room
a little cooler than when we began but
we are still taken by the stunning reflection
of people being people. Still hurdled over laughing
at what is left of our memories. There are only
little streaks of light seeping through the window now
but we make do. We always make do.

Twenty Twelve

The togetherness of crisp
summer days, afternoons spent laughing and
picnics at the beach. The unexpected
drop ins we welcomed. Late night jamming to
afrobeat and the sound of familiar voices.

We talked politics, the insatiable
Lagos life, the rush, the quickening
pulse, trading stories of police men
swinging loaded guns (in our faces).

There were spicy chicken wings. Liquor store
spendings- Jack Daniels. Merlot. Moet. Some
pulped orange juice and wedding party get-togethers.

Dress fittings. Secret dance practice
in the basement. Left over blue and white
candy from the wedding. Thanksgiving dinner
that actually involved Turkey and mashed potatoes.
The boys didn’t like it.

We made plans and cellphone videos.
Road trips to Edmonton. Sing-alongs to Davido’s Ekuro.
A steady trail of job applications. The long-distance
marriages. Snowstorms and Long-awaited victories.
The awe. The serenity. The magic of it all.