I did this to myself, I know. You are not mine
but come as wind clotted with the end of a season.
Did you know all a ginkgo’s leaves fall on the same day?
Sometimes it’s called maiden hair. For its beauty.
For how easily it quakes. Of course you know,
you expert on falling. Did you know a friend told me
that the first thing he learned in a rescue class was how
to break the arm of the person he was trying to save?
But what if this time the only person I want to save
is myself? I would ask what I have to break, but I know.
My therapist said I was resilient, that I didn’t just survive
trauma but thrived. Did you know the ginkgo excels
at healing itself? Surely you who made yourself in the image
of a Madonna with a glacial face and a bloody fist in the chest
knows what it means to make your heart an ocean. Mine
is greedy, weak. In my best moments, it might be Lake Eyre,
flooded for six months with useless abundance, dry the rest.
But not you, not your stubborn metaphor. Thank you
for that combustible muscle—I mean that—it can’t be easy
to open both sides of a robe and bear that much tenderness
for strangers. To accept so much terrible need. I’ve done it,
though. You know I sat naked next to electrical heaters
in dusty classrooms while the circle around me attempted
my widening hips and unclenched hands in charcoal.
I even kept a sketch to remember myself young, nearly pretty,
a perfect subject who didn’t mind vulnerability and stillness
until the timer chimed. When someone offered to hurt me
any way I wanted, I put their hand around my throat.
That time, choosing it. Where do you keep your secrets?
I know. The bottom of your vestments where the blue
takes over. That purple pulp of you finds spark and oxygen
and convinces everyone you’ve given all you have,
but you’re holding back. We all do. I can be as impatient
as any ginkgo in October, but I can hold my hand over
the back burner, low heat, burn colder, oh watch me bear it,
watch me break, wait for the robe to drop from my shoulder.