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by Nazelah Jamison from Berkeley, California

She stood up on the park bench, in a fighter's stance, ready
to take on an invisible yet overbearing past that
just would not lay down and be still, memories swirling
overhead like so much L.A. smog, not wanting to breathe too deep,
she sat down and closed her eyes.

There was never any time for self-love, through
all the love she spread like the good word
up and down her own particular path,
through all the ideas planted in other's gardens, which
sprang up and bore juicy fruit greedily eaten,
there never seemed to be enough for her.
Too late she saved the last few sunflower seeds,
they dissolved indifferently into the pit of her stomach
akin to the last few tears spilled, which sizzle and evaporate
on a hot desert floor.

And is a life wasted if nothing is left over for self?
Thoughts that chased her down to sleep,
not feeling sorry for herself, just feeling sorry.
She never needed anyone, really,
but stood by the door many a night waiting for those
who claimed a desire to carry her bags
more for themselves than for her, after all
it was she who brought the bags to their door in the first place.
She was stronger on her own, she was merely giving
someone else a chance to love her better,
but they didn't, so she went to bed.

So many think it so hard to be alone,
perhaps terrified by subconscious recollections of
either end of existence, always thought of as
cold empty void, when, in reality,
we are all alone when we remove all the distractions,
or when isolation is the single choice.
We are such a social species
only a brave one can face one's self.
She turned over and pulled the covers up around her,
'cause nothing's new.

And am I a fool, she wrote, to wait
for a train already been too long coming, which
might not even be on the way?
Am I some sick masochist, hastily growing gills
in order to swim in your pond, knowing that
it could dry up anytime and I would drown in the fresh air?
She lowered her pen
words and words and words and words
still no resolution, no end.

Not even memories really, more similar to pox marks
battle wounds, trauma scars.
Look at my face, she said,
if I had no words at all, would you know where I was coming from?
And if you did, would you care?
And if you cared, would it make any difference in how you feel
about this thing growing between us?
I'm losing my mind, love's looking like a hologram
there and then gone each time I look away.
And this constant waiting, waiting to see what'll happen,
waiting to hear what you're gonna say, and all the while
no promises, no guarantees, no parachute, no safety net.
All of this could be but a bungee jump,
heart snapped back into her chest, stinging
like 500 rubber bands.
I wouldn't even cry, she whispered
my reservoir is dry.

Nevertheless, questions, questions, questions
not being answered, listening to the sound of her own voice
only able to relate her own side, her own thoughts
on her own, on her own time.
Nothing she can do, either - frozen
like an Arctic glacier, forced to crawl across the northern hemisphere.
A gazelle, forced to ride on a turtle's back.
She glanced at the clock, and the hour was late.
How long must I wait and see?
She never even took off her coat, just unbuttoned it.
Don't want to be surprised when requested to leave.
She asked "what do you have to say?"
He stroked her cheek. "Your kiss is sweet," he murmured
"but I cannot stay."

She turned and ran away . . .


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