I see your past in cross-processed film,
in blown-out colors and over-saturation.

    You told me all about it, told me grand stories:
    you were going to go back in time and save the world.

I see your past in yellows and browns,
in umber and sienna and amber, in a younger sun.

    You sat and told me how — and you were always sitting —
    you thought past-you dreamt of a future less complicated than today.

I see your past through film-grain and vignette,
with a thick white border, space on the bottom to write.

    You told me how you learned so many imperfect things,
    in so many less than ideal ways, always at inopportune times.

I see your past in architectural drawings of unrealized buildings,
in paperback covers reaching towards heaven, in trillions of words.

    You figured past you dreamt of, not perfection,
    but a world unconstrained by so many failures.

I see your past with no me in it,
and wonder if past-you dreamt of us.

Resuscitating ancient coins in class, we learned,
takes a toothbrush and olive oil.
Slow, steady strokes across, around...
soft bristles dislodging soil
one speck at a time.
But no one that day was nearly as blessed,
seeing a coin shine through
at the end, full relief brightly expressed,
as I was to see you smile.

When you arrive,
the whole world gets slow.
Sluggish, amber-colored air
mellows lively conversations.
Everyone stops, marvels,
turns eagerly toward you;
and there are no complaints
about warming our faces in the sun.

We fit together in the strangest ways
and seem to seek new seams to savor.
Such joins are hardly perfect,
thread tugging fabric unevenly
unless it's reinforced over and over again.
We seem to seek new seams to savor,
and, weak though they are,
revel in the imperfect unevenness of joining.

"Comrade" would I call you,
and "brave," and "fierce" and "true".
"Lovely" have I called you,
and hope but to live up to
the example which you set for me.

So, comrade, onward, ever onward.
I know I cannot hope to offer
much but word on cloying word,
dull rhymes I strain to proffer:
small flowers, small gifts, camaraderie.

Complementary, clashing anxieties.
Dull clamor of intersecting feelings.
Need, desire, craving, jealousy.
Worry, fear, care, prayerful fretting.
Love, lust, friendship, a need to share.
Emotions on emotions on emotions,
and, often, comfortable silence.

I chose your name.
To defend, it means. To help.
I admit, having chosen it,
that I chose it to defend you.
When I picked you up by the scruff,
Dragged you off to that place
I hoped we could call ours,
I expected that we'd
simply find a way to survive.
I never expected love,
and rejoice every day in that surprise.

I chose to collar you.
I admit it was an experiment,
I submit to most, but not my partners;
until then I'd never owned, claimed.
It felt vulgar, at first,
greedy, jealous, possessive.
Through you I learned the joy of possession,
the love and trust and exactness of terms.
Owner, partner, love,
and pup, partner, love.
My beautiful, my own.

I'll hand you off some day.
I'm a less than ideal owner
in so many terrible ways:
I owe you more than you owe me.
I'll gather your leash up,
I'll let you keep your tag,
I'll bow, I'll kiss you one last time,
and I'll bless you and your new keeper.
And I'll never stop loving you.
And I'll never stop loving you.
And I'll never stop loving you.

You, for whom a heart means all feeling —
You, for whom yeah is an expletive —
You, for whom even computers sing —
You, for whom every tangle invites disentangling —
You, for whom even I will rub feet —
You, for whom shop always follows flop —
You, for whom words form a squall-line —
You, for whom I guess I —
You, for whom —
You, for whom even —
You, for whom I reach —
You, for whom my shit day leads straight to lets talk —
You, for whom I curate my week's feelings —
You, for whom I wait by the month —
You, for whom I structure my year —
You, for whom understanding of me seems always in grasp —
You, for whom my struggles provide no obstacle —
You and I, from whom us.

Tightly wound springs
Of very carefully
Not touching.
    Secret words
    To be said
    With confidence.
    Discussions planned,
    Side-channels arranged,
    Whiskey purchased.
And now anxiety
Over what it means
And how to work it.
    Is it worth it for
    Long-standing questions
    To be answered?
To invite disaster
For sake of knowledge
And further dreams?
    Maybe the answer
    Is that tired refrain:
    Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps.
And now we're
Awaiting weeks
Of careful touches.

I could never tell you
that you feel too much.
That you feel too hard,
or that your feelings
overwhelm and overtake you.

I could never tell you
how beautiful that is.
That I wish I could feel those things,
that I wish I could feel that way.

All I can tell you
is how beautiful you are
when you feel love.

Yit'gadal v'yit'kadash sh'mei raba
Would that I had the faith
To pray daily.
Eleven months to let you go,
And an amen to end the sorrow.

When a light so far above me shines down,
I lose my footing, stop, look around,
and for once, see my way lit before me.

Through you,
    I learn how I move.
Through you,
    I see how I act.
Through you,
    I judge myself.

When a light so far above me shines down,
I turn my face to the warmth and bask,
drawing strength, assured in my steps.

Through you,
    I recognize my failings.
Through you,
    I understand my strengths.
Through you,
    I gain perspective.

When a light so far above me shines down,
I reach toward it and grasp at what I can,
hoping I might somehow gain my own luster.

Through you,
    I find my place.
Through you,
    I gain surety.
Through you,
    I learn who I am.

When a light so far above me shines down,
and I fail to shine myself,
I hope only to reflect what I can.

Every time I seek to change
my life, myself, my love, my name,
every time I try and broaden my range
in this shitty, all-encompassing game,
I hesitate.

With every change in my life
comes the terror of maybe losing you
of maybe being caught in strife
over such insecurities as few
have escaped unscathed.

That you love me still
reaffirms so many of my choices,
and I set about with a will,
ignoring querulous voices
in favor of your calm laugh.

Between our houses,
there is a simple fence -
not a chasm, not a wall.
Chain-link, waist high,
bedecked with sweet-pea
and set about with violets.
Something we can tend,
something to feel good about,
something between us
other than nothing.

I will swallow my love for you.
I will swallow my love.
I will swallow my love for you
And relish the magnesium flare,
Rejoice in immolation,
Cherish the autolysis
Of secret cells.
I will swallow my love for you.
I will swallow my love.

I live my life in eternal terror
of the completeness of your own.
I take up so little space
and impinge upon it so gently,
I only hope that there is space enough
for a 'dear' here and a 'lovely' there.
If beauty is at the edge of the terrifying,
I live my life in eternal terror.

Cover me, crush me, compress me.
Squeeze me down until I fit in your pocket.
Let me jangle among your keys,
or slip between bills in your wallet.
Forget me, let me fray, let me fall apart.
And, some day, pull me free,
dust me off, flatten me out,
and tell me that you love me.

Every day, I learn to say "I love you"
in a whole new way.
And every day, I fall short
of being understood.