Photo by Marc-Olivier Jodoin on Unsplash


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, follow @morgannikolawren on Instagram, or visit

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