breaking the rules

Don’t write about your heart
in poems,
they told me,
the professors
and the workshops
and the texts.
It’s too cliché,
passé,
too abstract.
Don’t write about your heart
in poems.

So then
what do I say
when my heart
breaks?

What if my heart
is breaking
and I know it is because
the beating muscle
in my chest
is bruising
and yearning
and leaving
a hole
inside me—

there’s nothing
cliché
about how
that feels.

What if
with every pump
from the breaking heart
the blood
in my veins
carries
the longing
along
and it hurts
to my fingertips—

there’s nothing
passé
about that.

What if
I know
my heart is breaking
because I feel
the searing
seams
where it’s coming
undone
and I know
exactly
where they are—

there’s nothing
abstract
about that.

Don’t write about your heart,
they told me.

But I’m writing about mine
now,
which I guess
makes this
a
bad
poem.

opening night

opening night my
stomach’s in knots as
my heart keeps on
racing
racing
racing
backstage in a trap
of light
and nervous
laughter
with a
cast who
will soon
be under
the spotlight
four
three
two
we’re on
lights off
door opens
oh God
in heaven
help
me

helpless

Pain is
when your friend
loses his dad
miles
away and
nothing
you could say
or call
or text
or write
or comment
or like
or tweet
or do
could heal
his heart
and all you can do
in the whole universe
is jumbled-up fumbling-pray
and sit at your computer
and try to write a stupid poem
and cry

Sea’s-edge

The sun has laid a blanket of fire
over the white of the sand.
If I would touch the sea,
I must pay penance
with burning feet
as I run
across
the shore.

The salt of the water
I haven’t yet touched
already
sours my throat.
I spit into surf—
it doesn’t help,
but I don’t care—
as shock of froth rushes
around my ankles,
cold,
so I forget
the sting of the sand.

Higher rise the swells
around me, until
a rope of foam and sun-diamonds
slaps me cold in the face.
Chills snake up my spine,
whether from frigid waves
or from threat of
too-publicized
bull shark attack
in sinister shallow-hallowed waters,
I don’t know.

Away on the edge of the world,
I see the line of indigo
where continental shelf plunges
into darkness,
where the monsters of the deep
take their counsel.
Between them and me,
only this stretch
of emerald and blue-brown,
a study in watercolors.

For hours and hours,
the sea and I,
we play.
And later,
salt-saturated
and wrinkle-fingered,
I churn my way back
toward shore,
my one disappointment—
that I never
caught sight
of a mermaid.