Poetry Series by Mia Nelson

the moving through
the most intimate thing I can think of
is two shadows recognizing each other,
that in our most exhausted and bewildered states
I want to sit elbow to elbow in the world’s emptiest room.

that when drifting through the oldness of this place,
whose winds and creaks feel as the most incipient of aches, the most ancient of yearnings,
I want to tell you nonsense jokes and know each of your irrelevant details
here, where the cold pinches my face pink, I want to eat food I am not hungry
for and tell you that yes, love is the oldest, most terrible form of grief

and you me make tragically happy. you make me think:
Yes, we have words for this. I may point at the distance between us
and call it loss. I can laugh during the most inappropriate part of an environmental law lecture
thinking of you and say that love is the ghost & the moving through.

I want to walk down the unlit streets of our home far away from our homes
and teach you, almost, how to do a cartwheel in the dark. I want to call you before
sleep and tell you: you are the stars my city kid hands reach up to, the breaking of
yom kippur fast, the instinctive grasping for my hair, the still unnerving sweetness
of your incessant thank yous, the woods we can walk through and through and still
never miss a moment to say, though not saying, my shadow,
it recognizes yours.

we wake up tangled in a shared joke, sure that something has been harvested.
the warmth of your mouth meanders through the room in as many sleepy,
tumbling leaves. look at your hands. I love your knuckles as they bury me
further and further into the ruddy, fallen branch ground. you (hallelujah!)
and the pumpkin you picked not knowing its worm-rotten center.

ethan. now that the light is stretching her cat spine over the trees,
I need to tell you there is a goose egg on my forehead from
kissing too quickly, running into each other like we’ll never get close enough.

the window is iced and autumn looks in
on us like the last two remaining whole things.

we do not talk about it except before sleep, how you will never be
able to hold my hand without looking over your shoulder. how you
are always five minutes late when I am always five minutes early. the
zinnias are wilted, the vase you picked has broken its skinny, glass neck.

but if you asked it, I would forget that our season is almost up. the inbetween.
our fall, our falling into, our falling apart. lovely boy, can you not feel
the weather turning its heavy, honey tongue?

yesterday you did not recognize me in a red sweater under our
pitted, copper sky. it is so much harder to see someone as the
world curls in on itself. we know too much about the outside,
how when we crawl back together under orange sheets
some bit of the cold comes with us.

the leaving
today I lift you from the dead. in the orange bed where
you tapped rhythms from the songs we listen to in the dark
on my skin. in the night hours I spent listening to your body
sure that the inherited bicuspid aortic valve in your chest would suddenly
break. on the shadowed hill behind the library where we
lay on wet grass and spooked easily at the sound of breaking branches.
in the linoleum staircases I took your calls in. in the heart-room I keep every touch you gave me.

I resurrect the ridiculousness of your hands unscrewing every other light
bulb. I unbury you and the song you sang for me without hesitation. holy,
holy, holy I am building you again from the math lecture where you held my
hand and the jokes you tell even with your tongue in my mouth. I am remembering
the things you tried to teach me: the perfection of the number seventy-three or (listen)
that the human heart is about the size of two fists. you, the boxer in my dreams, curled fingers swinging
towards me like too many red wings.

this is the last love poem, I promise. this is the last love poem that is also a
terror poem. because my writing teacher tells me I am not allowed to use “you.”
I must separate the object of love from your name. imagine. that the dinky a christmas story lamp
on your bedside exists without you. that the circles you traced on the most laughing parts of me were
merely the wind’s work. I can not render you from my words as easily as I can render you from me.

we are not equipped. I will never believe that you like me more than you like that I like you.
may my professor forgive me for this grave work, but I have put my heart in the choking purple earth.
the do-not-call me. the soon and sooner. I am hurting you so you do not hurt me more. I am taking the
knife edge of our warm sleeping and showing you how to bleed. how do you like my running away?

would you un-ask my name? would you un-love me? would you forgive me if I tell you the truth?
your hands are too small. they can never hold what I am afraid to give. this. this is my greatest fear:
that you might only ask me to come back once.