I find your tongue again in my mouth
in strange ways, in new conversations – “Ah it’s good we’re in
our late twenties” says a new man.
I smile and there is your voice between my lips
“You might as well round up to 30” I/we joke.
He chuckles, and I smile with half my lips –
it is your side of my face.
Consider the other one
that told me he’s learning
how to be comfortable again alone. I swallow and
say, “Yeah you kinda… need that.. first” and a memory
echoes in the room. He looks at me strangely.
I cannot smile. I smile anyway.
I am quieter these days. Tell me about
the men before, men ask. I shrug and and open
my mouth, lick my lips, swallow and say the perfect
words from a century ago, they taste like dust:
“That’s private – you know I like to keep some
You seem really balanced, the men say.
“Yes, I try to just…be neutral about all situations in my life
and with all people”
and they look at me strangely because it doesn’t
sound like me, it sounds like you.
I can look them in the eyes now – there’s a trick I learned from you.
Why am I writing about you like you are dead.
Why am I writing about us as though we existed.
Sometimes, you hear the contours of your own soul
take shape in someone else’s mouth; my soul fluttered against your lips that night, a small black butterfly, and out it fell, deep and dark and like the night: All or Nothing. You gave it back to me, a new way, a new form, a new shape – when I knew her last, she was a small caterpillar, a little worm on the underside of the leaf of a tree the boys liked to climb at the local high school –
“It was a connection – just, not the highest – but it was real – why are you so all or nothing”? you asked me.
And in your mouth, she grew a small hard cocoon you had to
spit her out – she was not yours, you had to return her,
for you, her presence was a question, a plea, a
small and whining exasperated thing
but in mine she is a part of a circle of
liquid fire and butterflies that do not burn
and I stand inside it:
All or nothing.
I was not wrong – when I met you, I met myself, sometimes:
We need to hear our soul speak in someone else’s voice
for it to ring true again in our hearts.
That has always been the truth of my spirit, now
take it or leave it
get out or stay
those are the stakes and
those are my terms and yes
they are steep, steep, steep, rocky
as a seaside cliff, there are no stairs to get here,
find a way to fly if you have to. You must have to, to get here,
this is not a journey for simple desires.
In the space between All or Nothing is a vacuum
where men convince themselves that a half truth is as
good as a half life, where half love is as good
as half-ambivalence, where people take what they can get
and do not reach for what they want, because
they do not know what they want because
they do not know who they are.
Do you know who you are?
I am All or Nothing.