“Crossing It”

The line between friends and not
is about as thin as that crinkled condom in your wallet,
as thin as the seat belts we unbuckled,
as thin as your belt and my jeans
and the panties I almost didn’t choose to wear this morning

My hand, see, had hovered
between ‘everyday cotton’ and ‘hidden-from-mom lace’
I dared not consider the possibility that
someone else might see them,
dared not hope that your fingers might
reach for my lace waist and
close on my hip bones and
frame your face as you
move to kiss up my thighs

But I did
and you do,
and while I never imagined this would happen here,
on sweat-slick cracked leather seats,
it is —

Some time between before and
after I catch myself
looking back through the hatch-back
of your sleet-shit-gray Saab,
remembering, as if in a movie,
some more romantic version of the car that
we’re now rocking:

one that I fawned over
the day of your seventeenth birthday
one that ferried me between my house and rehearsals
and took us, high, on late-night munchie runs
one that roared down Ocean Parkway
as we, pliant and centered in that two-am kind of calm,
laid out our secrets like marbles
on some dusty, recess-perfect playground

But that car is not the same as this,
the seats not so cramped,
the roof not so close,
the vinyl less gym-sneakers-bad-weed-fast-food stale

And you seemed taller, your embrace bigger,
your laughs were easier won
and your self-pity was not so evident in those
desperate late-night phone calls.
I guess the past is just hazy with my infatuation
for I think I liked you more back then

then
back when might have had a shot at something good,
instead of just ‘something,’
but nowadays ‘something’ is all I can hope for because

I like you, a little
I like that you hate your cell phone
I like your forearms and
how much you care for your mother and
your reverence for mob movies and
your cursed curious fingertips and
your smile —

I want to give you another chance
I want to give us another chance

even though you probably wouldn’t be good for me
Even though you smoke too much and
don’t read enough and
whine and get caught up in yourself
Even though you never return my phone calls and
still harp on your ex and
really, really don’t see what’s right in front of you

But I like you, just a little
And nowadays isn’t ‘just a little’
‘just enough’?

I’ll put up with your Saab
if you put up with my shit
and maybe, if we try,
we can have our second shot at ‘something’

I guess, in the end,
the line between friends and not,
between lovers and not,
between imagined and happening,
is as thin as the space between our bodies,
as thin as a driveshaft or a condom or a seatbelt,
as thin as faith —

or maybe as thin as a promise to try
and a promise to love
and a promise to make do with ‘something’

Author’s Note:

This narrator disappoints me, something rare in my work. Her resignedness in the end is not something I share; usually I channel myself in my characters, so this is a departure from my norm. The end I wrote to this poem surprised me, but served to strengthen my personal resolve not to settle for a half-hearted relationship with the real-life party in question. I hope that the audience thinks critically about the narrator’s choice in the end, and even more so, questions her reliability as a storyteller. Is she really telling the truth about this relationship? Is she omitting important details? Is she misleading the audience to make her love-infatuated logic seem more clear? These questions, I think, are worth discussing, and perhaps more interesting than the poem itself.

The narrator aside, I do like the nonlinear style of story-telling in this piece. Flashing from present to past to future, with little anchors to the present sprinkled in. When I perform this for my friends, or in practice, I really act this poem out. I see this narrator as more of a character than a permutation of myself, so I am certain to use a new kind of intonation and body language. I play up the ending, going doe-eyed and pleading, to give the audience a cue to pay attention and really consider how the narrator’s emotions affect her truthfulness.

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3 thoughts on ““Crossing It”

  1. I like the style of this poem and love the way that it flows. The narrator doesn’t dissapoint me. Being self-righteous is great, I just think it’s really hard to be consistantly that. It’s great to be strong and have great values but people falter and people often don’t agree with other’s values in the first place. It’s great that the narrator surprised you, that means you really captured something. I don’t think trying is bad, especially when you’re young. Sometimes you have to make mistakes to learn things and to grow. Be more patient with her. I personally liked her and think that a lot of people would find her relateable.
    I think that often poets speak on very complex and important issues but no one’s perfect. Not all of your poems are going to be significant to the betterment of society. A lot of your own prejudices and flaws as well as your saving graces are going to come across in the medium. Instead of being so disappointed in your narrator, look for the things you have in common with her. Instead of looking down, look level (is it sad that I find my last sentence as incredibly poetic and want to write a poem about it?).
    I hope that I don’t offend. Maybe I’m just too critical.But I figured you probably have a lot of people telling you how good your stuff is instead of challenging it to be better, though I didn’t leave this comment purposely in order too challenge you.I just have this annoying way of having opinions and insisting on sharing them. I am incredibly flawed with my own set of prejudices.
    I’m a fan of your vlogs as well as your poetry. Keep writing and keep vlogging.

  2. I have a tendency to justify myself or to appologize because I have what has been considered controversial things to say and usually I’m coming from a helpful place but it can be perceived otherwise. Now, I have to appologize again because I wrote a poem about this and you might hate it. And I’m sorry because the content of the poetry trespasses on personal territory and instead of telling myself no I tell myself, go ahead. So I went ahead and I wrote this and please don’t hate me:

    Don’t look down, look level
    Beneath the sea is soil, rocks and oil
    Compare her to dirt and she’ll grow still
    Though some leaves will be dried up and withered
    Narrow your eyes at a flaw she doesn’t see
    With out saying anything she can still feel your disapproval
    She’s not caught up on herself, she’s caught up in him
    Maybe you made her or maybe she used you to come through
    The words were still beautiful any how
    Unnarrow and look level
    She’s showing you something with her eyes
    It’s your reflection
    The one you dislike most
    Is the one who shares your deepest truth
    Don’t look down, look level
    She’s right in front of you

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