Crossword Clue, 5 Down, and a Hint: “Love” Isn’t the Answer
I said it first,
Come over here, and help me out,
and you laughed.
You said it in place of any other words.
To you, to love was to breathe,
to dance around the kitchen in your Sunday socks
slipping in and out of tile lines and realities
burning eggs and licking pancake batter
off the spatula before dropping it in the sink.
In place of
eyelashes fluttering across my cheek
and a confession
Again, again, and again without losing meaning.
To you, to love was to be,
to bathe yourself in the heat that fueled your temper
quilting comfort from the sinews of my muscles
nesting inside my heart as a mouse in midwinter
pumping my bitter blood with your saccharine promises.
In place of
hair falling in a pile in my lap
and you laid at the base of my spine.
Until I made myself sick with your sweetness.
The way you said it, and how often,
I forgot to tell you how some people
build brick walls around their hearts,
and I am one of them.
Well, to me, to love was 5 down and zero to go,
and all I knew in your arms and breath
was that I wanted to exist as you did
to sing ballads from twenty-twelve instead of sitting
at the table hiding in black coffee and newspaper puzzles
brushing over your sticky syrup fingers
and green-tea-honey-stained lips
to be waking with you
crashing to the floor together
sneak out before the sunrise glow broke
watching you on pink mornings
petals opening and vines climbing
to entwine their limbs around the object of your affection
inviting you inside my mind with a welcome mat
to learn freedom, and it read,
I don’t know how to love
the parts of myself that are becoming you.
Down, across, and undefinable by black grids and ink.
Love was as easy as trusting, which is to say
not at all—but I needed an answer,
and you let me hold you until the moon
until my sleep-drunk truths painted your body in bruises
until I could not untangle your nerves from my own.
Whose voice spoke as the words tumbled to the page?
I felt them through your limbs:
I love you, I love you, I love you.
You said it in place of any other words, and in return, I called you mine.
The Girl in the Striped Overalls
I heard of love like spirits,
the image of a woman floating in
on a bed of cloud dust and moonlight,
beauty like gold in a gossamer gown,
soft and safe, needless of want.
But I fell in love with
the girl in the striped overalls, she
stomps into my heart and climbs
inside my thoughts, clumsily, heavily,
hiding her gentleness from my corruption.
She is unyielding behind those loud
lines of color, red and yellow, blue
and the ocean with it, and in all
understanding of the world, where there is
sight, so is she. This, I must hide from, too.
There is no room for love or beauty in me,
only the clash of my emptiness, the fog
resting on my shoulders, and the cloth
draped around the semblance of a lover’s
form, shrouded from meaningful existence.
This darkness, against her screaming brightness,
incomprehensible, in the way even her hair is pink,
and now so is mine, unnatural brilliance that
binds us together, and we begin to wonder, is this
poison, after all? How far a leap from dye to death?
She is everywhere, she is suddenness,
she is my unweaving, the shards of light that
leap forth like the stardust that created the first
woman, an incantation for unwelcome synesthesia,
blinding, carving my eyes from their sockets.
I refuse to yield, but as she rises with daybreak,
there is another tide of damp regret that pulls me
back into the depths of misunderstanding, and
I refuse to yearn. There is nothing to desire here,
nothing to do but suffocate the flame she lights in me.
Which is corrupted, the prism or the void?
If all of this is true, if we can trust that
shades of light define perception,
my own theory of love emerges, and it is this:
If I am the absence of color, then she is everything I stand to lose.
You Guessed Wrong
I had another dream about you last night
woke up wondering where you went
if your breath still fills the space
between waking and sleep, in someone else’s bedroom
and I want to tell you how I am and who I’m not
lay out all those things of yours that I wove into my being
without confessing that I miss the moments
you forgot to leave behind
neon lights and sober parties and flour on the floor
the vacant familiarity of fair-weather friendships
knowing without knowing
knowing without ever having truly met
and it makes me think how I’ll never see you again
you’re in Tempe now and studying forensics
I’m on the other side of the country trying to forget
we met, so when they ask me,
Have you ever been in love?
I don’t have to tell them about the taste of orange juice
and how I would’ve been okay if I really had been dying
that night I passed out on your couch.
You’re the reason I get pancakes at the hotel breakfast buffet
and always wish they were blini
because if they can’t taste like my mom’s
I wish they were yours
I keep steeping my tea bag too long
until I choke on the bitterness, remembering
you and how you looked at me like I was a stranger,
but I let you braid my hair.
Lex Page (he/they) is a queer young adult writer, poet, and student at the University of Virginia pursuing a BA in English. Through poetry, he seeks to explore the messy edges of queerness, gender, and family and examine love’s meaning in all its forms. When not attempting to become a local cryptid, lex is working for LGBTQ+ advocacy groups and making questionable decisions in the kitchen.
Image: Pozitron, CC BY-SA 3.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0, via Wikimedia Commons