FIVE POEMS by HATTIE JEAN HAYES

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.


So answer.


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

About 2014


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.

 

TESTIMONY


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

but lasting

this cloudy symbol

branded for wanting


They write me now

sticky hands waiting

to catch regrets I never had


They recount

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


Remind them

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


Aha.

Again, I find you here

ruddering through last night’s dream

a slimy retread of nonconscious pleasure.


It’s you

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,

even though

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.