This is a poem done differently—

months of letters mid-air     before 
I knew her face, many more weeks     before 
I could look at it directly 

one middle finger tracing
		the back of a middle
	knuckle		a meditation		an introduction
to touch		if you listen

past breath, you can hear the sound 
	a woman’s skin makes 
		on another’s skin:      a prayer      a welcome

the luminescence of oil:
		how she makes a body shine

	even in its earthness

		(still, sometimes, 
		I fear she’ll turn
		or return
		to ivy)

	how I hold back 
my breath, my pulse, the full weight
of my mouth, so she knows 

	my reverence and desire 
	in perfect balance

This is a poem in moments 
	kind and cautious: 
	each deliberation
	a devotion, every exploration 
	a sanctity we cannot bear
	to reduce to romance

But What, they ask me, is Romance?

               with a line by Regina Spektor
I stand outside a New Orleans coffeeshop
in an Indiana town, my face all summer
sun, having just decided I will let my lover
love his wife. This is how I remember
romance: a rubber band. The longing
in its pull, the welt
left by its snap.

I left soulmate on a curb outside 
an abandoned gas station, fate and destiny
its burned-out neon signs. I tucked god 
in a bright white nativity 
and walked away. I know 
there's no such thing as mine. 

But reverence. Abandon. This hulking, dramatic beast, 
roaring against its harness, my hands raw
from the leash. I know there's no such thing
as mine. Still I seek a yard  
where it is safe for him to play.

Severance: A Meditation

I keep trying to remove myself from love,
	extract ego like a mass, irradiate

	adoration to wither any lingering whiff of self
so I can see it clearly—what is facet,

what is fragment. I wore white shoes
	to my confirmation and now I hold everything

	to that standard of purity. I want love
so clean that when I put my self back into it, 

I can forego fear. Peel off every edge
	of need. Find love a fencepost, its root so deep

	and concrete I could never bend it 
to my aching will. If I could anoint

your feet with oil, would you find me right
	after the resurrection? Would you love me

	like a fencepost, manmade and immobile?
In all my mythology, there are only two

loves: selfish and selfless. Both 
	have fractured me. 

Holes in My Own Loving

Now sewing brings the pain back, eases it. It reveals holes in my
own loving.

– Stephanie Sauer, Almonds are Members of the Peach Family

When I first loved, there were no holes, save for myself. I gave everything, kept nothing, a firehose emptying every well. I was the hole, and I wore it well.

When I noticed the whole of my emptiness and its longing, I found another firehose, and we collapsed together every night, soaked and wholly hollow.

I called this life without holes.

(It was not.)

There is no avoiding holes. I am a mess of holes, so there is a mess of holes in my loving.

I learned to love people who see my holes and see me through their own. The stinging bliss of love is seeing yourself through someone else’s holes—that is to say, an accounting of every lack, a negotiation of our respective failures.

I want to love both others and myself wholly and with minimal failing, so this accounting is a thorny gift we open tenderly together.

Loving reveals holes in my own loving. I cannot fill them. In my wholeness, I move them somewhere safer, and hold them somewhat gentler.