I HONESTLY LOVE YOU, OR, THE OLIVIA NEWTON-JOHN POEM
Mine is not the first heart broken.
I never claimed otherwise. You’d think, though,
the shock of it would be less so, for all the reading
and listening and hoping I’ve done.
Me, hopeless, romantic, immersed so many years
in the language of want. And yet not inoculated.
I’m not trying to make you feel anything at all.
There’s nothing I’m not feeling
for the both of us already. Foolish, unruly,
my stubborn little heart outpaces me. Again, I must
align with honesty. My chance to err on the side of
grace, or elegance, or intelligence, or propriety
slipped out of reach in another
place and time.
Prove that my faith is justified.
You have carved a space in me
that no one else fits into, the blurred edges, what’s yours
is yours is mine is mine. I can see your eyes
in any light. In total darkness,
I could always find you.
THE ONE WITH ALL THE ANSWERS
Dear Desperate in Delaware,
I agree with the assertions in your letter:
that you are the reasonable one,
and all this could have been prevented
with tenderness and honesty and
all the emotional vitamins we neglect
to take on schedule.
I also think you knew this when you wrote me.
So though I have been through this exactly,
though these feelings were once mine and you found them, secondhand somehow,
even though I have all the answers,
you get nothing.
If you want to know what I know
you must make the same mistakes,
and I will let you.
I give the same advice week after week:
you will not silence the voice in your head
by ignoring her.
When she says go,
when she says love,
when she says wait wait wait,
she knows you’ve heard.
Tell her how you feel.
Tell her what you wish you felt.
Tell her what you just told me,
and tell me if it works.
If I were you,
and once I was,
I would attune myself to the needs
of the person you’re trying to be.
Write to her. Not to me.
You have one thing to give this world,
and it is you.
A RETROACTIVE PROPHECY
This was actually a different angel—wait, are all of them angels? I
gave the text away— but listen to how I tell it.
When they showed me the photographs of
her car in the lake, I knew she had walked
in after it. That funny tiptoe she had, as
though motion were a secret.
Yes: I have known genius, and tried to tell her. It was
fall break and she was standing in the middle of the
field and she was bleeding, and the smile on her face is
the thing I feel when I am touched by the sun or the
water or I fall asleep kissing my own satin arm.
There was an affair—I’d call it that, and she had called it a
distraction, and affairs are the greatest distraction from anything
lasting or happy— and she left town and they brought her back
and I saw her.
I was standing by the lake and I watched her drive past,
and I recognized her face and I recognized her car. And
she was just going to the pharmacy, or work, and I tried
not to be embarrassed when she ran into my parents and
she asked how I was doing, and my mother had to lie
and say I hadn’t spent six years wishing her dead.
It’s been ten years since my first kiss
and the first time I felt
a clumsy thumb of disdain
press against my pulse
to hinder it
Not my only bruise
this cloudy symbol
branded for wanting
They write me now
sticky hands waiting
to catch regrets I never had
the ways they had
to rein me in
I may not be permanent
but I will be essential
Born soft and cherished,
I was tempered
in embers that waited
three generations to catch
When people tell you
there is too much fire
in your poems
the horizon’s value
is the promise of the fucking sun
Think less of me
for not doing my time
My mother swept this floor
so I could walk across it
without looking down
I will never be extraneous
only extant and galvanized
Allow them to taste my name
on the nights when I pray for myself
AT ONE O'CLOCK IN THE MORNING, THE ANGER MAKES ITS SCHEDULED APPEARANCE
Again, I find you here
ruddering through last night’s dream
a slimy retread of nonconscious pleasure.
underfoot; stepping on your own
tail, crimping the pages of your
day planner so you’ll be scared sad of using them.
You’ve never let yourself
give a poem a whole page.
You’ve never paid yourself
for the hours you spend every month relitigating
the custody of your shame. Who is it
today? What are you so afraid of—you might be exposed as human?
What did being human
ever do to you? Again: aha.
It is always a revelation
to see you on your sore side
curling your spine at the moon and hoping
she’ll leave you unscathed tonight.
Always: a revelation,
she sees you through the comforter
drapes a milky wrist over your crescent shape
and turns you to face tomorrow.
I know it’s frustrating,
to pinch and suck and straddle your way
into new lines every night. I know!
But consider the alternative—
please think about it this time—
you could be walking the beach in Santa Monica
trying to find the exact spot where
you fell asleep, counting the steps between
your lonely hotel and the office where nobody loves you.
Remember when that was what you wanted?
You spent hours in that water,
more sick-green than lakefresh.
This is your skin.
At least when the poems are done
you can get rid of them.
Hattie Jean Hayes is a writer and comedian, originally from a small town in Missouri, who now lives in New York. Her work has appeared in Belletrist Magazine, The Conium Review, Hobart, HAD, and Not Deer Magazine. She is working on her first novel.