the pain paradox

the pain you choose
hurts differently than
pain you can’t say no to.

my body is covered
in ink driven into
my skin by hundreds
of tiny needles,
but I flinch
when a nurse draws blood.

I can slice my finger
open for a ritual
but swear like a sailor
at a papercut.

it’s different when
you can say no.
there’s joy in saying yes.
even through the pain,
you can know the price
and you can say
it’s worth it.

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trigger warning

cinnamon-apple air freshener spray.
cockroaches.
the bodies of dead cats.
a hand on my neck,
even a lover’s.
urgent, unexpected knocks
on my apartment door.
criminal justice TV shows.
stabbings, even fictional ones.
“we need to talk.”
hotel rooms.
midtown Manhattan.
storage rooms.

and some days,
my own existence.

it’s a snow day

there’s a quiet to snow
that has nothing to do
with physics and
soundwaves being eaten
by snowbanks.

after the excitement
of the first few flakes
making their way down
subsides into acceptance,
everything seems to slow.
even in the middle
of Manhattan.

streets empty, but it persists
even when cars crawl along
and other pilgrims pass,
even through children
shouting as they play
or people cursing
at the inconvenience.

there’s still wonder,
if you make room for it,
streets turned pastoral
and white glare sparkling,
even as some turns to slush
under boots and tires.
even then.

the eleventh hour

Deadlines are helpful
or we wouldn’t bother
to subject ourselves to all
of this pressure.

At least I wouldn’t,
and yet here I am
daily racing the clock
to set feelings to text
before the clock switches
to a whole new day to waste.

I started this with
no real conviction to continue,
but that’s how success happens,
not when you commit,
but when you do the thing.

this is not a love song

I like to see you
in all lights.

The dim of our bedroom
when one of the cats
has woken us up at three a.m.,
bright supermarket fluorescence,
unforgiving and illuminating.
Daylight, so rare for us both
to have the time and inclination,
especially if it’s not for a funeral
or other obligatory outing
that leaves us squinting into our coffees.
Dark bars punctuated by the flash
of cameras that you hate,
sometimes mine, capturing you
like an insect under glass.
Under streetlights in a blizzard
as you trudged to meet me after I left work,
your face the warmest thing for miles.

I’ve studied your face so well,
under all conditions,
that I think I could find it anywhere, if I had to.
I’ve never believed in true love,
and I remain agnostic about reincarnation,
but even then I think I could find you,
if we were separated by dimensions.

Thank goodness that I don’t have to.