1 I remember the day we sat laughing in your small car and the smoke hung silky in the air like low stratus clouds. Your hand was on my knee and mine on your thigh as we fumbled for a good song and you said you loved me. It took falling in love with someone else to remember you fondly, to forget the way you later left me quivering in a broken heap on a lonely bed. Now I can smile at the thought of your small hands and tattoo of Alaska on your back without wanting you with me again.
2 I was born in a town called Aurora and lived in a tiny white shotgun house my father could cross in eight steps. Now I live alone on a street by the same name, in another town in an apartment just as barren. The incense smoke hangs silky in the air like low stratus clouds, reminding me of the smoke of campfires and the dust from windstorms and the smell of my friends' roadtrips to Pearl Street during my highschool years. Now I live ten blocks from that street and walk there daily, and the bums ask for cigarettes and spare change.
3 There are pennies on my dresser in the shape of Orion. The stars remind me of backpacking in New Mexico, when the night was dark and shiny like an abalone shell. Lightning scars spiraled down every big tree and we hung our food in bags so the bears wouldn't get it. I lay awake each night in the tent, terrified that hungry, gnashing teeth would come crashing through. I was fourteen years old and lying beside a friend I adored who told me "there are two things in the world I hate, gay people and death," and I pretended to laugh.
4 Our bodies are round like river stones but warm and delicate like soft bread. When we love we are gentile as smoke but we harden at the edges and pierce each other with jagged taunts when we're afraid. Our wounds spiral around us like lightning scars but we reach beyond them, trying to remember, through wealth and romance, what we once felt warm in the loving arms of our mothers, a feeling we strive for long after we forget it.
5 The first time my mother got cancer I was at summer camp in Wyoming and my father was there, speaking to her on the lone payphone outside the main cabin. His eyes filled with tears as he passed the phone to me, but when I spoke to my mother I could hear her smiling and she refused to mention that unspeakable word that was eating away at her flesh. When we hung up the phone my father took me for a walk through wildflowers and aspen trees to the edge of a stream as clear as the cloudless sky. My father swallowed and told me the doctor's news, while I shook and prepared for the realization he might be raising my sister and I alone in six months. "It's skin cancer," my dad told me, "so they went ahead and cut it out. She'll have a scar on her wrist." That was all. I wanted to punch him.
6 There are scars on my wrists that I cut to look like yours. The pain of loving you is past but the lines are still, forever there, reminding me of the weakness we both shared in our lonely moments.
7 I'm sitting at my card-table desk typing, and the sky through the window is black. I'm waiting for him to call me, the one who rescued me from my fear and took me away. The lamp flickers with footsteps upstairs and the incence smoke arcs to crown my head and redden my eyes. They keys click like the pattering of aspen leaves beside a crystaline creek. I haven't forgotten you because I love someone else now. You are a piece of me and always will be, just like all the other pieces I will never forget. I am waiting for him to call and pull all my pieces into one.