Constellations

It is a quietly warm day in a year full of summers. I sidestep tiny leaf castles, but you like the crunchy sound they make under your stomping sneakers. I wonder if this is why people like fall so much.

The air smells organic, like wet mud and crushed berries. You twirl a stray twig between your fingers and ask me if our lives are like seasons, they have their own patterns.

I think about childhood summers spent in plastic swing sets and hopscotch, sun-streaked hair and orange candy, forbidden parties, birthday piercings and an ever-growing indie playlist.

I shrug, I couldn’t see it.

So you take my pointed finger and trace a constellation made of familiar faces and forked roads. It slowly dawns on me that with all new things, there is a tug on a string of memories that make me feel a certain way.

The strings are tangled and there are overlaps; aberrations.

I stop short in my star-studded path and wonder:
Is there anyone out there who can make me feel things I haven’t felt before?

A thought too chilling for this summer evening, you take my hand and gently walk me home.

After hours

I sit across from you, cross-legged, uncomfortable.
This sofa isn’t made for singular conversations that make it
through the night.
I fumble around for the remote,
there isn’t one.
So the raucous blaring of a
music video continues.
There is cheap wine, white:
I like the bitter aftertaste.
And there is music, the kind that
doesn’t stick with you,
but reminds you of an old song
you might have heard in a jazz bar
that can only be described as blue.
I laugh at our mistakes as high strung teenagers, indie posters taped over
fragile bravado, secrets stashed
below the bathroom window.
You steal a look at the book on
my night stand, I tell you it is about
shoveling snow.
We talk in metaphors, so I fetch you
a cup of liquid nostalgia and we
flirt with disgruntled singers and old
photographs that still smell
like the ocean.
The light shifts across your face,
no need for a clock. I play
with the idea of crossovers and
classic margaritas, crowned with
indecision and loud, seaside laughter.
You call me cheesy and throw my
mixtape out the window. We find
the tangled strings that lead us
to each other, and idly wonder what
would happen if we undid them.
I am struck by the feeling that I should
write about this for people don’t stay,
but poems do. I laugh at your joke
about ferries, but the whole time
I am wondering how long before
you leave, too.

Auburn

the purple haze of
a rundown pub, dirty glasses
with lemon wedges,
cuts that shed heartbreak
on a bartender’s behest.
that night
i told a stranger about
the time i came home
to half a pair of your
favorite nude heels and
the drunken club dance of
flickering candlelight casting
auburn flecks on a
tweed jacket that
wasn’t mine.
that night
i swirled cheap rum
in a glass too heavy
and found solace in
music i did not think
was sophisticated enough
for a man who wears
tweed jackets.
that night
i told whoever listened
that we, we could not be mended
like old cassettes ruined
by the stubby fingers of a toddler,
pulling on strings that
were never attached.
that night
the burning liquid i
forced down my throat
reminded me how
you slipped your fingers
over my eyes and they smelt
of pinecones and winter dust,
you told me i couldn’t look and
when i finally did,
you
were
gone.

Footsteps

We walked down a road where the sound of our footsteps – yours crisp and business-like, mine a docile shuffle – was the only sound for miles. You didn’t hold my hand and I didn’t listen to you grumble about the traffic.

It wasn’t the first time I’d noticed how different we were. I wore oversized sweaters in the summer and always carried a hair tie in my pocket. You liked geometry, comic strips and the thrill of not being rooted to a place.

We loved the same things, but for different reasons. I weaved your pillow talk into poetry, and you made my morning coffee.

We continued in this way, for a while. There was silence, classical music, shared garlic bread, a host of elevators and more silence.

I kept our picture in my wallet and pretended you still wished me good night everyday. You cared a little less when I cried, and worried a little more about our silences.

My courage, like my footsteps, was docile and in the end, you had to stop. We parted ways at the end of that road, tore down the little house we’d built and forgot our promises in the pockets of old raincoats.

I still wear oversized sweaters and keep that picture in my wallet. I miss my morning coffee, though. I can never get it strong enough.

If I ever came back to that road, I wonder if I’d still hear the steadfast sound of your footsteps, ringing in my ears, reminding me we were wrong from the start.

Kahwa

Cross-hatched lampshades, sunny orange walls and pastel tiles. An alcove of knit cushions and cane dividers, never short of steamed buns with toothpick flags or the carefully timed saffron kahwa.

We watched as swarms of people filed in on a weekday afternoon, clutching oversized purses and birthday cake.

A man near the door stood behind a counter stacked with yellow and blue jars, selling tea leaves.

We crunched on Burmese falafels and bits of gossip. We painted ourselves The Regulars and stumbled into the sheer joy of sharing a lovely meal. We fell in love with the details, like sprinkled black sesame or honey caviar on avocado ice-cream.

We had found the sort of place you could write about.

House arrest

Heavy with sleep and layers of warm clothing, we woke up to an early sunrise, light filtering in through faded curtains and cracks in the roof.

We sat cross-legged on the edge of our mattress, warm teacups in hand, wispy breaths tinged with hope for a sunny day.

But as we watched, the clouds shifted, the morning light sped from orange to grey and sheets of rain outside the window spelled our house arrest.

Toy shop

Today, we drove down the road to my old school and it reminded me of a game our teacher made us play in the first grade.

We were meant to name the things we crossed on our ride to school, and our answers swam the full range: from bus-stop to Methodist Church.

But all I could think of was the big, blue toy shop with squeaky clean glass displays and a broken neon sign.

The lights spelled out something different each day, but it’s broken positivity gave me unexpected comfort in my first few weeks as the new kid.

There isn’t a lot that feels familiar in a brand new playground with alien pigtails and broken teeth.

So I’d plaster my nose to the car window and look out for my sign each day, a morning ritual that stuck.

Now everywhere I go, I look for broken neon signs in the tinkling bells of a coffee shop, the tap dancers in crowded streets, a lone hat seller who loves to chatter and the raindrops that collect on the eaves of my porch, like Christmas lights in July.