after that first time when we decided

after that first time when we decided
not to be lovers anymore
and you were here again
as friend
and we were pretending to be okay with it
or at least I was pretending to be okay with it
maybe you really WERE okay with it

my pain was larger than myself
spreading all around me
staining
like ink growing fingers
I sat and watched it spread

I tried not to show it
hell
I tried not to FEEL it
didn’t WANT to feel it

So I sat there bleeding at the kitchen table looking
at the back of your broad neck
the way your hair curled up and around against your neck
listening to the sound of you talking
hearing the music of you
but not what was said, really
while all the time thinking I’d just like to be close enough to
breathe you in
but of course
that wasn’t allowed anymore

I can still conjure your smell on cue

And then, with your back still to me, you said ‘where’s the bread knife?’
so familiar in my kitchen
in my pain
that my heart almost stopped with this proverbial added injury
this informality of habit
this habit of intimacy

why is okay for you still to know where my bread knife lives
but I’m not allowed to stand close enough to smell you

that clean
smooth as a riverstone
sandalwood smell of you?

And I thought
There is no way I can do this
Do I have anything left inside me to be able to do this?

I thought about all the food in my kitchen we had made together and eaten
the way we had laughed
sitting at the table
the way the light came through the
glass door onto the kitchen floor
stretching over and onto the table in the summer evenings
changing with the seasons
changing the flavors of the room
changing each meal

I thought of the way you loved
my homemade black beans
I loved your obsession with all things bagel

the time the avocado wasn’t ripe enough
but we didn’t realize it until it was too late
until it was already cut
what to do with unripe
cut slices of avocado?
avocado crayons
you christened them
‘You even TALK in poem,’ I laughed at you
always thinking you weren’t a poet
like you were somehow lacking
some title or something
some validation
from someone
whom?
to tell you you were a poet

the time when we were out shopping
and we had that pretend fight about bread knives

I wondered if you were thinking about it too
standing there at my kitchen sink

about how we tried not to laugh as we argued over
what type of knife was best
you said, “Why do you NEED a bread knife anyway, you don’t bake bread.
Do you even cook?”

I pretended to be offended
and said too loudly (like I sometimes do when I’m happy)
so that everyone turned to look at us
“You are one to talk, mister! Just because you think it’s okay at your house to pass the
baget around the table and have everyone bite off a hunk, doesn’t mean that
I’M okay with that!”

and about how at one point
we actually DID bake
a couple of loaves of bread together
from scratch

about how I had to wait for those
nasty rug burns to heal on L2, 3 and mostly 4
before I could go to the chiropractor
b/c I was too embarrassed for the doctor to see them
and I would have had to make up some stupid answer
to his questions
and I’m not really that good at lying

I would have ended up telling him
what really happened
which would then have necessitated
finding a new chiropractor
who, of course, would have
ask me why I was changing chiropractors
which would of taken
me right back to square one

and I really NEEDED to see
the chiropractor after that

so I waited
with you marking the progress of those scabs
laughing gently at my embarrassment
kissing them sweetly each time
to hurry them along

about how that one time you cut your palm
slicing through a bagel with
that very same sharp bread knife
the adrenaline
the emergency room
the stitches
me making fun of you after we got back home
‘Well, without that right thumb (you are left-handed), a bread knife’s no good to you anymore anyway.’

it is too surreal to me
how after just a few little words
nothing is the same
how we’re not even in the same book anymore
much less on the same page

that day you told me we couldn’t be lovers anymore
I came in and kissed you hello and went to the bathroom
I didn’t close the bathroom door
because those words hadn’t yet been spoken
five minutes later neither was allowed to see the other naked anymore

I felt really stupid afterwards that I hadn’t closed the bathroom door
but how was I supposed to know?

and then it wasn’t okay to stand close to you anymore
even though we had kissed hello just 5 minutes ago when I came in your house

And really, would it have been too much to ask that you could have told me BEFORE
I went to the bathroom?
Or when you saw me heading to the bathroom?
so strange
the difference 5 minutes can make

and then I remembered that you were waiting for my answer
standing there at my kitchen sink

Where IS the bread knife?

so I brought myself back down into that pain that was my body
looked up in time to see that
impatient
disgusted
I’m-waiting-for-you-to-answer-me look on your face
that you know I hate
and said

‘I think it’s in the dish washer.’

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