Getting back into the groove of things isn’t easy. Especially after taking a long hiatus. A hiatus that I figured would last indefinitely. Last Thursday, I participated in the Latine Heritage Month reading at the library. Yes, that library. The one I used to work at. 

And two weeks before that, I participated at an open mic at Moonbeans. Though, if I’m honest, I wasn’t going to partake in that reading (more on that later, possibly another post). 

At both readings, I read something I had written with V in mind. (This poem, actually.) As you can see, the poem didn’t age well. Which is a problem with adding pop culture references in your works. (Note: This isn’t always the case, however. There are plenty of beautifully, wittily written poems that drop random references that have aged wonderfully. Well, I’m sure there are, anyway.)

During the Moonbeans reading, I noted what wasn’t working with the poem. Keep in mind, this version is a Frankensteined creation of two poems smashed together. Something I had composed for a Love & Chocolate reading held a few years ago. 

For the reading at Sekula, I omitted most of the first point. And noted that my father had passed a few months after writing the piece.

While doing so, I remembered something a creative writing professor told me. How the editing process is never truly done, even after publishing. Writers always think of new ways their works could have been better. And maybe that’s what I’ll do. Sit down and read my “best of” poems and contemplate how to “correct” them. 

Because outside of that one poem, I haven’t written poetry in a long while. And outside of these rough-draft, journal-entry type blog posts, I haven’t really written anything either. 

Once a fixture—a staple—within the local poetry scene, I bowed out and took a seat. While the conflict that led to the decision was only partially to blame, things had changed by then. I’d become a father, took down a real job, and began focusing my attention on them. Coupled with the fact that my relationship with Jeanna began, poetry readings didn’t seem as important. 

But performance is a drug not easily shaken. Standing at the mic, reading to a roomful of strangers or friends, just felt right. Like a missing limb or an old confidante.

Photo by Heorhii Heorhiichuk

Lessons in Love & Loss Pt. 1

Dear Jeanna,

I see us in the faces of young lovers. And a cynical smirk might brush past my lips whenever I see these post-adolescent paramours. The way they exchange glances at bookstores while browsing Kafka. Or the way the world melts away as they hold hands in the library. I still see us in them like photo albums taken down from the shelf. These days I look back on to the better ones, daydreaming about where we’d be now if I had made more than just a half-ass attempt.

There isn’t a beautiful breath of indifference exhaled when I think of you. I spent a third of my life loving you. I’ll spend thirty more doing the same. There are times I forget you’re not there. Mornings I wake up from a dream, and I swear I can still feel your presence next to me. Your warmth. I wondered if you ever did the same. Sometimes it’s a song that transports me back in time. A montages play. A personal soundtrack or music video. Most of them aren’t songs we heard together. Some are new or new to me. Remembering what I lost is no different than a missing pet flyer. Sometimes aren’t recovered because they aren’t lost. We gave up. We let go. We moved on.

I fell into a pattern, taking everything for granted. Press me and I couldn’t tell you the last time I complimented your beauty. Several attempts to remind you each day went the way of every broken promise I made you. You brought out the best in me and repaid you with my worse. I’ve done good things, Jeanna, but I’m not a good person. While I never showed you any violence, there’s no ignoring the emotional detachment. My anger. My manipulation. I made it about me. I felt suffocated. Claustrophobic. Never took into account your turmoil. The way your mind betrayed your wellbeing. Not once did I extend that hand of gratitude. You’ve pulled me out of the dark so many times in our relationship, and I turned my back on you. It’s a sad summation of our nine years.

I never told you this, but a part of you must have known. In a moment of depressing clarity, I wanted to leave you. To push you so far from my toxicity. We lay in my bed, watching a movie or TV show. You asked me if anything was wrong, and I answered with my usual “I’m ok.” I wasn’t that I woke up with the intention of ending things with you. And the realization that you were better off without me scraped my mind. I broke down. Tears welled and broke forth. And you took care of me as you always did. Maybe you knew what I was building towards, and you talked me out of it. That’s just the way you were.

You once called yourself the absent lover. We were mending our broken relationship. We were both lost, then. But even now I think about the way you’d kiss me whenever I read or watched TV or didn’t pay you any attention. You weren’t going through the motions. Neither of us were just the chased and the chaser.

The first few nights were heavy with a sense of weightlessness. It’s far too easy for someone to lose track of time. A year becomes two becomes five becomes nine. And it doesn’t feel long enough. As children, time seems like this ever expanding thing that spreads farther than we can see. From 10 to 20 seems like a Tolkien-sized journey. As an adult, the time burns too fast. Only 12 years ago, we were trying to make this relationship work. Maybe we were building a future. Maybe we were just fooling ourselves. It just wasn’t enough time, though. Or we spent too much time on something that wasn’t doomed from the start. It didn’t come without it’s happiest moments. My best memories are the ones I spent with you. And the best gift is our beautiful son. 20-year-old me can’t fathom what I know now.

The night you broke up with me, I recalled the innocence early in our relationship. The I-love-yous and the I-love-you-mores. Late conversations and random games of truth or dare. And I cried. Now there’s this odd feeling. Innocence mixed with sadness. Nostalgia. There are so many shards of memories I want to share with you. Maybe to put together. Maybe to bury. I don’t know what I want you to do with them. The only thing I am certain is these pieces aren’t meant to hollow a path to return to us. They aren’t bread crumbs from a crumbling romance grown stale and moldy. They’re just shards of memories. A declaration. A proclamation. That we loved each other once. That we existed. That I’m sorry for all the things I put you through and the promises I never kept. They’re just reminders that I never intended on letting you down.