by Danielle Dunckley

The sweat that falls along your back, the curve of your shoulder and my tongue.  Loving you is not easy. I want to lick you won’t let me I think I’ve forgotten back pressed against sheets the smell of your skin. I’ll never look like you, you said; I didn’t know why you wanted to. Your eyes more beautiful to me hazel no brown amber something liquid and deep your teeth perfect small and white. Still it’s what I don’t remember I want the most. I don’t remember, and already I feel tight against my chest your anger hard eyes hard silence–pressing pressing you didn’t speak to your office mate for six months because of something he said. What was it? Do you even remember? Yes, you probably do, dark circular stains on your office wall where you threw an apple again and again the white arc of your arm steady persistent your hand and fingers covered in pulp in mashed fruit. Your love when I was your world when there was no one else for you but me–No one understands me like you do, or was it, No one understands me but you, no one. I still blame myself though I don’t know what I could have done to keep you. We’re strangers now, the last words you said to me.

***

But maybe we were always strangers, just lovers in disguise. Maybe I never understood you just wanted to melt into your skin to adore and worship you to put you on a pedestal knowing everything you said was true–how wonderful how easy never to have any doubt to trust you so completely. So we’re back to the shoulder or was it the back maybe both yours mine who can remember both of ours is that possible? Speak to me with muscle and with flesh with sweat between your thighs surrender is the hardest part, it’s so much easier to give than to take.

Take kisses.

Take flesh

Take sweat.

Take bone.

There’s nothing I can give you anymore nothing you will take. My body doesn’t exist not for you. We enter peoples’ lives then disappear.

***

Promises break bodies break bones break hearts break this is not about you and me anymore. What is this about? I don’t know. Words break. See I’m tired why can’t I lean against you? You wanted my body but it was only the physical. You were jealous? Well, so was I.

***

We’ve left the back against the blade of shoulder. I’m trying to write. Why don’t you write? You asked me, why don’t you write? What answer could I give that would satisfy? They’re only words after all, a big old jumble of make believe and hide and seek, a poem about my Aunt’s death on your door, a two-page story I almost threw out you saved. You’re the writer in the family you told me as if it was some kind of accomplishment. But it wasn’t an award I wanted, it almost made me angry.

***

Still you played with numbers with mathematical theories as I tried to calculate the arc of your shoulder, the slope of your back.

***

Could we have saved each other? Isn’t that what all the storybooks are about?

***

And from what? Loves brutal strength to destroy to tear apart your eyes like glass your body no longer mine playing with some other woman in the house we shared, no not some other woman, a mutual college friend Ivy League all women where we were roommates where at the end of our sophomore year our twin beds were pressed together to make one big one we couldn’t get close enough. And then your arms around her your legs around her and me sick in the bathroom where you years months days before would have held back my hair my head stroked my skin and murmured soothing words. I hated you because I loved you wanted to purge myself of you rid myself of you flush you down the toilet because your shoulder arc of flesh arc of desire belonged to me not her and you gave it all away as if you hated me too.

It’s not you, you said when I asked, I just don’t feel as if I can talk right now.

No. I can’t talk right now. When I wrote you a letter, left it in your big red room. I hated red when I met you, knowing you I fell in love with red, madly, wildly, hopelessly.

***

Crying you came to the bakery on a wet, slow day. You needed to talk. The manager let me go and slipping off my apron I followed you outside, sat with you on a wet bench. You handed me a piece of paper. You couldn’t talk. Official paper. Official letterhead. After this year we won’t fund you. We suggest you get your Masters and leave. They don’t think I can make it as a mathematician you choked and I sat there stunned not knowing what to say. One letter and I had already lost you. I could no longer hold you, did not know how to translate your pain, what you needed I couldn’t seem to give.

***

And an apple green intact hits a white wall again and again splatters flesh once whole turns delicate once hard pulp wet on your fingers dark circular stains imprinted on white and the arc of your arm.

***

Tell me you want me please I will give anything tell me you want me

***

When desire becomes desperate, hopelessly greedy, always empty, it’s too late.

***

And you were my world my love my amour my pet my she my goddess my gorgeous my constant my always my body my soul my home.

***

Loss doesn’t care who you sleep with. Everything can be stolen.

***

“We are strangers now,’ you said.

***

My body rejects your rejection. Frantic I try to schedule everything in, the essentials of my life, writing, exercising. Love cannot be wielded bracketed controlled my love for you scheduled between dinner and shopping for milk. No you were never on those lists cluttering my room my notebooks. To do must do will do. I thought discipline could solve my problems fill my emptiness strict diet I expected my body to hum my soul to fill convinced of my own power my own magic to supply and you in your red room listening to Chopin’s Nocturnes, Carmina Burana, mathematical theories burning through your head through your hands. In the end you proved them wrong, they asked you back, but it was too late you were going somewhere else. You were too proud too hurt even though they humbled themselves before you apologized for their mistake.

***

They had stolen more than they could give back.

***

Irretrievable loss. I am filled with your absence.

***

You told me I was dangerous. You were jealous of the boys. You thought I was careless, that I pulled them in, laughed and listened, lit up their lives luminescent. What you didn’t realize you gave me light. Next to you I was untouchable. Still you lectured me said I made them love me confessions sticky and awkward outside inside they looked lost and filled with longing like pain. What they wanted I couldn’t give what you wanted I couldn’t give.

***

What did you want?

***

My mom hated you. You hurt me. She wanted to strangle you, to throw you out a window and watch you fall. I kept on making excuses for you. It wasn’t until the end that I ran out of words. Even now I use them, return to them. They are what I know and you are gone.

***

We’ve lost the arc of shoulder. Where is your body now?

***

“The sense of what is real, the thought if after all it should prove unreal.’

***

Dancing my body belonged to you. Dance for me. Music playing from your stereo in your room wearing jeans and your shirt I danced camera in your hands you photographed me black and white. I love the way you move. Over and over you shot my body exposed in extravagant poses, passion pulsing through my limbs and your eyes fire hot.

***

Is this surrender? Is this love?

***

Shape of muscle smell of heat animal you walking naked in the women’s locker room walking naked towards me walking naked lusts long tongue. Do you think I didn’t want your salt the curve of your back? Do you think if you looked like me I would have wanted you more or the sun would have risen faster would have stayed in the sky longer? Do you think of me at all as I try to write you from my system to detangle you from my gut?

***

What do you think love needs to be love? Was I in love with you? Does lust ever transcend the physical or is it always grossly attached to limbs and muscles and eyes and nose and hair and lips and fingers and tongue and orgasm? Is it a quick fuck in an alleyway skirt lifted pants down? Is it a knowing smile an intimate smirk? Is it eyes that look up and then down eyes that stay on you a moment too long that linger? Is it darkness and the devil superficial super marketed packaged and glossy temptation and resistance the pulse beating too fast blood rising? Lust is never love, lust never transcends, spilling fluids bodies splayed ridiculous clownish painted panting. Our body so primitive you photographed me dancing eyes huge. Oh lust lost in greed hedonist narcissist we despise it revile it nasty we call it yet we fear it want to control it the quickening the quickening the oh god you following me upstairs to the roof your lips on mine I have to kiss you please let me kiss you your tongue inside me an explosion a reeling my hands palms pressed to your chest. Lust disposable lust replaceable lust superficial super marketed but not love no never love.

***

But my lust for your body is my lust for you and my lust for you is my love for you and what I miss isn’t the fucking which wasn’t fucking anyway or the kissing or touching or cumming but you inside me you with me you me, me you, you.

***

I write to absence. You no longer exist. You’re somewhere studying Mathematics. You no longer exist. I am here, where you used to be. I no longer exist. Strangers. Is that what when we split? We were never one. I don’t remember who I was, with you. Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, interchangeable, are Dead. We memorized the roles, the lines, we shouted them at each other, whispered them to each other, we memorized each other. “All your life you live so close to truth it becomes a permanent blur in the corner of your eye and when something nudges it into outline it’s like being ambushed by a grotesque.’

Did we live that close, to truth?

***

On the porch on the swing singing Cecilia frozen yogurt tarot cards. The devil is in the details you for leaving me, me for not understanding you. The devil is in you for loving me at all lusting for my body I want to be you to have you everyone loves you (the way you said it cruel mocking) as if I wasn’t discerning enough indiscriminately giving but I love you more they don’t understand you I don’t understand you who are you we’re strangers we’re lovers you’re so beautiful I can’t stand you where were you why don’t you here let me make you some tea love you lick you devour you.

***

Sacrificial.

Isn’t that what love is supposed to be? Not the greed of lust but the purity of sacrifice. Was it pure how I gave myself to you allowed myself to be shaped by you? And was it greed when I danced for you when I kissed you palms pressed against your chest?

***

Anchor me.

Please.

Anchor me.