Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash
CALL IT WHAT YOU WILL
When you suggested that we speak to each other
exclusively in verse and prose,
I did not tell you that I only saved poetry
for the things I was scared to say.
I just said I could spend years
chasing sonnets up the slope of your back
and hoped you did not hear
the mothwing tremble of my tongue.
When you called me a
“celestial child of thought and blood and bone,”
I blushed bright as the traffic jam constellation
we watched from your car.
That night, we hung our reservations on a hill
and the highways glowed open-heart red beneath us.
And with headlight eyes, you told me
that your biggest fear was being misunderstood,
was not knowing what someone truly wanted
to say to you.
When I ask you why, you said
that English and your mother
were not on speaking terms,
and you were trying to bring the both of you together
with what little Russian you could find
wedged in your teeth after twenty-one years.
You told me you always wondered
what the air between you two would pulse with
if only you could fill it with enough sound
to say anything of substance.
And I marveled at the kind of love
that could move a mother to split her tongue in two,
giving half to her homeland
and half to a country that could teach her son
to say no to a life that had left her wanting.
There should be a word for all that selfless.
Nothing I could think of did it justice.
I’m told so many other languages
have whole trunk-fulls of words for love.
You only need to run your fingers across them
and find the one that compliments your touch
at that exact moment.
But here we only have one word.
A one-size-fits-all-occasions, four-letter fix.
And we’re trying to stretch it across a whole back seat,
or ball it up as tight as we can,
and hope we can shut the glove compartment
after we’ve shoved it inside.
In the end, it rarely works.
In the end, "love" just means
too many things to fit into fidelity.
Means calling this relationship what it is,
and not considering a kinder name for it.
Means calling it quits.
Means calling to ask what I’m up to.
Means wandering each other’s ways
long after we’ve finished all this.
Means you finding me
in the back of my favorite coffee house,
and cradling me in your arms
like it was the best way you learned
to say anything that mattered.
~ Morgan Nikola-Wren
Morgan Nikola-Wren began writing poetry for various literary periodicals in 2013. She is a winner of the Pangaea Worldwide Poetry Slam, 2016, and has published three books of poetry. Her debut book, Magic with Skin On, received a Goodreads Choice nomination for Best Poetry Book of 2017.
Morgan ran away with her husband's circus for a year, but now works at a school library, which is not all that different. She is perpetually searching for new favorite words, more black clothing, and the perfect design for her next tattoo.
Find her on Facebook at www.facebook.com/morgannikolawren, follow @morgannikolawren on Instagram, or visit www.morgannikolawren.com.