My sister told me a soul mate is not the person
who makes you the happiest but the one who
makes you feel the most, who conducts your heart
to bang the loudest, who can drag you giggling
with forgiveness from the cellar they locked you in.
It has always been you. You are the first
person I was afraid to sleep next to,
not because of the fear you would leave
in the night but because I didn’t want to wake up
ungracefully. In the morning, I crawled over
your lumbering chest to wash my face and pinch
my cheeks and lay myself out like a still-life
beside you. Your new girlfriend is pretty
like the cover of a cookbook. I have said her name
into the empty belly of my apartment. Forgive me.
When I feel myself falling out of love with you,
I turn the record of your laughter over, reposition
the needle. I dust the dirty living room of your affection.
I have imagined our children. Forgive me. I made up
the best parts of you. Forgive me. When you told me
to look for you on my wedding day, to pause
on the alter for the sound of your voice
before sinking myself into the pond of another
love, forgive me. I mistook it for a promise.
Darlings, sometimes love will come to you like a fire
to a forest. When it does, be braver than I was. Just leave.
Take only what you can carry. No tears, no second thoughts.
You have hands like tinder boxes, the smallest spark
will kill you.
Get in the car. Take water to the maps. Avoid gas stations.
Don’t look at the flames dancing in the rear view mirror.
Go to new cities, climb on the rooftops and slow dance with
your coldest memories. Wallpaper your new home with every
dusty, desperate love letter you swore you’d never send.
Find a stranger with sharp edges and uncharted hips.
Press your stories into their skin and forget you ever knew
his name. Just promise you won’t think of embers or smoke.
Even when there is ash in your hair. Even when there is soot
in your lungs.