Learning How To Breathe In My Own Cotton Rain

It’s raining.
The temperature is cold enough
to hold the outline of smoke
as it curls through weather
and follows the wind. On another
morning like this, we caught
our breath, eyes following the
geometry of fire escapes.

So whenever you come back
from wherever you roam
I’ll be building a house
that just might be our home

I stand at the doorway,
careful not to let the smell
into the house. Curls erupt out of
the spaces between fingers;
a chilled bottle of flat beer stands on the railing
next to me.
Water pops against the plastic
garden chairs where we used to talk.

I’ll be working my hands
to the bone

I’ll be working my hands
to the bone

Your notebook lies on the bed inside,
our laptop open with light
streaming into the waning
darkness that follows
heavy clouds. It’s been a year
since I opened Skype.

Cigarette ash cottons
down from the balcony,
spinning as if learning
how to fly.

My body quivers, warmed by
tobacco and chilled by alcohol. I draw
deep breaths, inhaling the solitary quiet.
The leaves do their fair share of roofing,
stray drops splinter into puddles
nearby.

Somehow I think if I write enough songs,
I can win back the time,
and the things I’ve done wrong.

I hold the Night Sky With Exit Wounds
in my hand, thumb holding two pages
open. I try to read Aubade with Burning City
until the bleeding sky blurs the ink
as though our rain has caught the smoke. I know they’re
raindrops
because they can’t be tears.

So whenever you come back
from wherever you roam

We stood out here on rainy mornings,
the temperature cold enough
to outline your scent. You held
my hand, cold fingers
interlaced with warm. I didn’t need
to feel warm. Your white cotton dress
did not learn how to fly
but how to feel like you.

I was so careful
not to let your smell out of the house
that now I find it hard to disturb
what’s left. The first page of
Night Sky With Exit Wounds
carries a poem nobody else has read,
words I want nobody else to hear.

The rain slows and I draw one last breath
before heading back inside.

I’ll be building a house
that just might be our home.

 

 

Notes:

  • The song is called Learn How To Fight, by Besides Daniel. The title of the poem is inspired by the song.
  • Some of the language in the poem is influenced by the poetry of Ocean Vuong. Night Sky With Exit Wounds is his latest book of poetry, and Aubade with Burning City is a part of it.

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