Dear John and Other Poems


Dear John—

you must know—is not a simple phrase
written on one of two bombs I can’t stop

dropping inside me. That’s all she wrote
is another way to say I would rather live


with my burning than sleep with my dead.
Keep putting your hand against my chest,


even if I refuse to speak words, you plead,
convinced I could lead any man to dance.


I need to tell you the truth—I’d rather
breathe my burning than love my dead—


but I’m trying hard to pretend I don’t dream
of pirouetting into enemy fire. I might lie


in this bed forever bingeing The Leftovers
& never realize I’m not like the shut-in


who dies alone with no one to check her
animals that will certainly eat her. I am


her. I am the daughter who once taught
a neighbor girl how to shove someone


to the ground by repeating the move
on her over & again, though I never


showed her how to keep her footing.
This—dear John—is to say the reason


you shouldn’t love me now is the reason
you would’ve overlooked me then, when


you were already wise enough to know
the world held its knife to your throat


& it was everything worth kissing against.
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