ode to the boy who stole my heart in ohio and keeps stealing it
So, can we talk about why summer washes away the milk on the corners of your mouth—
which may as well be the ends of the universe —and what love has to do with any of it.
I say I’ve never eaten at Taco Bell, but you laugh at the way I say sorry. O-mouthed like the word
is desperately giving mouth-to-mouth to our small talk. You like chicken sandwiches and hate American
cheese on ramen, which is a crime I can keep forgiving you for. We put on Mitski and cry about the million
ways we’ll never come home, because I’m afraid you look at me and see a girl who has a voice
made of wet pottery. Wholly rabbit-souled and scared. Girl whispered gone by the stoplights that stopped
working before I was born, girl born in the wrong city. In the corn fields two years ago, I was knife-boned
and angry. Even the vultures couldn’t get any closer to the truth. That every boy I ever loved
I loved the same: hands that unsuture my heart into sizzling globs of fat, hands I let be lovelier
in the dark, where I learned intimacy in a poem is no intimacy at all. Night after night, I materialize:
girl cast in stone and wanted in red on every poster. My heart is a boar backed into a forest of teeth,
and inside it’s always thunderstorming to save itself. Some miles away, the meat cleavers are missing
from the slaughterhouse, and I don’t want to believe you’re keeping them safe from me. Or that a future exists
where we adopt a cat named Horatio, and I persuade you to finally try oat milk because you love me enough
and that day, you come home from work with a bouquet of dahlias and I forget all about what happened
or didn’t happen in the corn fields. That there was always another way to love, and to love better than bittersweetness.
And I love you so lucid that swans migrate up my spine, shoot anthems up my throat, I will do anything, and remember
that night I was still in denial but I read your tarot cards and pulled The Lovers. You must be so lucky, I said, the girl
luckier. I wanted to cry. Will she make your eggs with the sunniest sides up in all of California,
I wondered, will she be the one that turns your smile into that shade of starlight I see in my dreams. Then,
I confess, and then, I really do, I’m really confessing to your hair gathered into cirrus cloud sheep babies
between my fingers, to me holding your hand at the tattoo parlor, more of you made art and to hold,
I imagine that hour in the graveyard of dead poets we ran out of screaming when lightning French-kissed
the thunder, angels flashing hot white, tangled up in this sky of so much we didn’t do, all the forever
we have now to show for it.
Stephanie Chang (she/they) is on a gap year and currently based in Vancouver, Canada. Her work appears in The Kenyon Review, Waxwing, Hobart, Berkeley Poetry Review, diode poetry journal, and Penn Review. She edits for Sine Theta Magazine and reads for Muzzle Magazine. Twitter: @stephchaang, Instagram: @steph_chang, stephchang.com.