Inside of here, I hold on too tightly.
Fists clenched and toes curled,
I white-knuckle my way through this life.

I cannot wear this skin well,
I don’t know how to rest these bones,
and it is so hard to walk through this world
when nothing lasts long enough for this greedy heart.

I’ve always been worried, secretly,
that love would take me down.
Sideswipe me out of nowhere,
knock me to the ground,
knees bleeding and tears streaming.
That it would reduce me to something weak,
lesser than.
Desperate and clutching, like my mother,
broken and spent, like so many others.

I’ll have none of that – thank you very much.

I have spent a lifetime practicing the art of taking leave,
practicing goodbyes the way one would practice
playing the piano.
I take out the crumpled sheet music,
flatten it with open palms
and take a deep breath before I begin.

I say so long over and over again
sort of like when I learned my multiplication tables.
You times me equals sixty nine
and fireworks of the best sort.
Yeah, I know my math is a little creative.
Sweetheart, I thought the scrambled eggs this morning
were delicious
just don’t make plans too far into the future

because I’m scratching fondness and farewell
onto dead leaves, matchbooks, bar napkins,
and the palms of each one of my lovers.

I slip out in the quiet hours of the night
leaving notes in eyeliner that say things like:

catch you later
thanks for the French fries and the fuck

you’re awesome
smiley face

One must practice goodbyes.
Stand in front of the mirror and try them out;
do this every day for many years.

Part ways with the graffiti and dirty snow,
with warm lips and kisses in the dark,
clouds of breath spreading like haloes in the streetlight.

Walk away from tulips bulbs warming in the ground
like small furry fists.
Abandon the lover who stroked your cheek
as if it were a newborn baby just placed in her arms.

Turn your back on that deep sinking black of day
leeching into night while the ocean laps at your skin.

In the morning, run.

Run like a river raging full in spring
and do your best not to look up at the windswept sky
so full of tears and loss
signaling the storm to come
which will surely take you away from me.

Tonight, I will do what I must.
I will wrap my arms around you,
lick my love song into your ear
then I will tell you goodbye

before you have a chance to leave me.