not everything belongs to you

to read the same book over and over
and expect a different ending
let me rewrite the story, my version
don’t worry, we still don’t end up together
but at least the season we pass through will be a little less winter
the silence not so static
and then maybe i can toast the memories
where the rain has funnelled to my cheeks
crying until the air is too bitter to breathe

to own the heart that will never stop trying
run hours to the beach just because
there is a higher chance of shooting stars here tonight
he sweeps me off my feet and i hate myself for having legs
fingers absentmindedly reaching and i am terrified of having hands
i tell my mother about the tall boy and she thinks of you
like your leaving was broken glass and i’m still swallowing
but some nights i fall asleep on the couch
dream of enough moonlight to wash me breathless

that’s how i know i made it out
that’s how i know there is still a chance to become
poetry

fantasies of when we meet again

one, i see you on the streets
maybe when you were just on your way to the gym
and i was only in town to visit my sister
it is impossible to pass as strangers when
i can forget everything, but never your silhouette
you call out to me, in a voice that unravels all the knotted time between us
and i am 18 again

two, we talk about the weather
i describe every drop of rain that’s fallen
and you count the number of clouds in the sky
until we both run out, until there is nothing left to say
but for me to ask if there is a her
you say there haven’t been any since, and i ask why
because they weren’t you

three, i tell you about the poems
and you see yourself in every dotted i, every crossed t
you ask if i ever wrote about anyone else
yes, but not in this way, not on this scale
you are the face of all my heartbreak
and i’ve wrung every second we had together dry
the other girls – did they ever write for you?

four, we catch up over coffee
you drink it black now, but i still opt for mochas
and every time the cup empties we find another reason for a refill
time must have softened our pride, smoothed out our clumsiness
we’ve never welded so well together
take a walk in the dark, fighting temptations with pocketed fingers
you ask me to keep talking, so you don’t have to confront my still lips

five, you finally admit to realising your mistake
stopped drinking for risk of dialling my number
how your heart still flinches when you meet someone who shares my name
twitched at your cowardice for not reaching out
but hated it more for letting me go at all
you think it’s safe to confess, because there is a diamond on my finger
and we haven’t spoken in years

six, i tell you i wish you’d called
because up until the second i told him yes, i would have picked up
you apologise for being too late, and there is a swollen silence
a moment, where my ring has never felt tighter
there is no time for logic, consideration
but i have never been sane when it comes to you anyway, so i say
better late than never

please, don’t you see? we can’t not end up together

something blue

if I could tell her one day she’d finally stop writing about him
maybe she’d hate herself a little less for still missing him now

this winter i write you letters about us
and address them to the past
hoping you’ll read some
but knowing you’ll never see them

these secrets, that i tuck into my heart
which still beats so hard when i hear your name
i wonder if my next lover will unbutton my blouse one night
ask about the bruises gathered on my sternum

explain to me, how we fell at the feet of a breeze
when we had tornadoes backing us
ran out of words after a chapter
when we had planned to write tomes, because god

there have been so many since
but none whom i tell the moon about
none who keep me awake on summer midnights
counting stars up to your phone number

these outstretched hands are still so full, you know
with the love you wouldn’t take from me
tell me how to fold them in
tell me how to redirect it to myself

so if one day you see me on the streets, please
don’t call out, walk over to greet me
i will finally have learnt to breathe again, but
one smile from you will throw me right back into the ocean

i cannot entrust this heavy soul to buoyancy
there is not enough air left to find the shore
i cannot build a dam that will stand against you
i have to trust you to swim the other way

Confessions

You tell me about a dream you had last night;
How you couldn’t remember it,
But you woke up with a heavy feeling on your chest-
So I know it was about him.

Do you still think about him?
Sometimes… but only before I sleep.
Because you won’t remember it the next morning?
No, so maybe he’ll pass through into my dreams.

You say how whenever you’re in a crowd and you catch his scent,
Even now, you still stop to look around, convinced he’s near you.
I tell you thousands of men must wear that cologne.
I know, but still.

So I ask if you believe in parallel universes, in alternate endings.
Yes, I like to think that whatever I didn’t get in this universe exists somewhere in another.
Then there’s a universe out there where you and him are together?
Of course, of course,
Maybe there are multiple universes where we are together.
Do you ever wish that this was one of them?

But you don’t reply.
Instead, you tell me you think you are too fragile for happiness;
The exhilarating kind, the kind that shoots through like an electrical current-
There’s no other way to explain why I screw it up every time.

I ask if you are afraid of the next one.
Sometimes I think I don’t even want there to be a next one.
You say what you fear most now is to see him on the streets one day, his arm around someone else,
The smile on her face so familiar, it wears almost like home-
I was her once, you know,
I had her smile too.

And what would you say to him?
I wouldn’t.
I don’t know how to talk to him without accidentally letting him know I still love him.
But if he already knew?

In another universe, I might have been happy for you,
If only I could convince myself that you are not my perfect ending.

Catharsis

And even afterwards, you had a way of leaking back into my life,
Seeping into my words like a broken fountain pen.
No, perhaps ‘flooding’ is more appropriate, the way
You exuded my mind as a swarm of writing prompts,
Sweeping through, making a home in all my emptiness,
Romanticising the way loneliness wrapped its tendrils around my neck;
Mascara-smudged eyes, ice-cream binge clichés,
Offering a vaccine to writer’s block
(How could a writer, of all people, refuse that?)

But of all the words that have slipped from my mouth,
Of all the words that you so unknowingly stained,
These will be the last, I am sure of it,
For there must be lighter things to write about
Than bleeding hearts and charred souls.

I am finally sick of the forced giggles and loud voices that
Push through these lips – my lips, that walked into other lips the way you walked out of my life,
Desperate to show you I’d moved on already, as if it were a key competition;
Fighting through to the finals, only to find you never even bothered to register.

How pathetic it was, for me to enthuse about letting go,
Only to spend more nights writing about you
(If you can’t beat the pain, embellish it).
A hundred and twenty five hurricanes later, and I finally realise
You can never truly be free from something you’ve glued your palms onto-
Even if you loosen your fingers, pull away, you’re still holding on.
But the rain has finally ceased, so let the sun-rays melt this glue.
Don’t you worry about me losing my grip-
My hands have finally found other things they want to reach for.

There may be less to write about now,
But at least I have nothing left to prove;
Not to myself, and especially not to you.
At least I’ve finally reclaimed my life,
No longer living an existence designed to make you miss me.
At last I can laugh today, properly, without thinking to myself
“See, I can be happy without you.”

And so now I sleep with the windows open,
Wearing nothing but filtered moonlight-
Gentle curves and soft skin against ivory satin sheets;
This body is mine, mine alone.
It is a liberating moment to realise
I belong to no one.

Return to Sender

I still think about you.
I don’t want to, but the idle mind is not blessed with the luxury of choice.
I wonder if you’ll ever read this and see your name written all over it
(You would not be wrong).

Did you realise I bruised easily? You were so careful with your words;
“I knew you wouldn’t be happy about it,” you said in the end,
As if I would be angry, annoyed, or even disappointed.
No darling, the word should have been ‘upset’;
Shattered, maybe-
Devastated, heartbroken-
“I knew you would be crushed.”
You needn’t have worried about words hurting me, I’ve seen them all.
So I reassured you that it was fine, that I’d walk away;
After all, my legs are strong from our tip-toe kisses.

When I came to you after drunken mistakes, you asked me
Why I became so casual about the kinds of lips and bodies that pressed against me on Friday nights
When I once blushed from your caresses.
I tell you
It’s easier in this maze of bodies.
I knew about this, that’s why I left my soul at home for safekeeping.
It’s difficult to remember what it means to have a name, a personality,
To believe in this darkness that I am anything more than flesh and bones.
And in those moments, I can almost pretend that the strange body coiled around me
Belongs to you.

I finally understand now that this is our fate, the inevitable,
Even though the idealist within me, the one who still wants to believe in happily ever afters, wishes otherwise.
But there is no point in trying to prolong
A story that has come to an end, with sequels of foolish fantasies and delusional daydreams-
That was not the author’s intention.
No one keeps writing with a pen that has run out of ink-
I should know that best.

Maybe we both deserve better,
So I hope you find someone who makes you happier,
And I hope she makes you laugh, in a way
I don’t think I was ever able to.