how to love at fourteen (poetry collection)

this is a sort of “flash poetry” compilation of twenty original pieces. it is confessional. it is (mostly) honest. it is me. i call it how to love at fourteen.


Andrew Wyeth, Wind from the Sea (1947)

(i)

i am beautiful now 
i wasn’t beautiful 
the day i fell in love
with your eyes and smile 
i was 
crude 
still developing 
a flower bud
a newborn dove 
a lightless star 
i wasn’t beautiful 
you were beautiful 
and you smiled 
never because you loved me 
but because you pitied me

i wish you could see me now

(ii)

i knew from the start you liked girls 
i don’t know what it means 
when you tell me that 
i just know that it means 
you must have noticed me 
in the same second 
i noticed you 
and it’s the first time
that someone has noticed me 
for a reason other 
than the fact that i read
instead of talking 
and give everyone 
blank stares 
and very rarely smile 
i’m used to them saying
you get good grades 
you don’t talk a lot

you reach into my guts
and pull secrets out of me 
i never thought i would tell

(iii)

it’s just that
i fell asleep 
on the bathroom floor 
for the first time 
when i was thirteen 
a few hours 
up before dawn 
and back to my bed 
before my mother woke up 
to realize i had subjected 
my body to a night
of restless sleep 
on cold tiles
because 
i hated anything soft 
it reminded me of 
what i would never be 
i couldn’t figure out 
if i wanted to die 
i just knew 
i didn’t want to 
live 
when human voices scared me 
and any touch scarred me

so that’s who i am 
i was falling in love with you but 
how could you love someone 
that you might someday find 
sleeping on the bathroom floor

— antidepressants

(iv)

you are kind enough to notice 
that i flinch away from being hugged 
so you smile and say 
i get it 
neither do i

but 
don’t you realize 
that everyone else 
isn’t you 
and i don’t want to 
touch everyone else 
i just want to touch 
you 
and i want you 
to touch me

(hold my hand)

you notice these things 
but not others
do you only notice
what you want to 
notice

(v)

4 am 
you send me a message that says 
i think you understand me 
the way that no one else does

i cry 
i don’t know 
what to say 
i type
goodnight
we never mention it again 
i wish i would have told you 
that i loved you 
at 4 am 
and i loved you 
the way only 
a fourteen-year-old 
can love:
innocent 
too fiercely

it wouldn’t have mattered 
because i know you loved 
her 
and i couldn’t be 
her
i’m still not 
her

but
i wish you would have known 
just for that moment 
how ready i was 
to take on the world for you

(vi)

looking back 
perhaps i am grateful 
because
you taught me 
how to notice when 
i’m not wanted 
and what to do when 
i’m not loved 
i learned from you 
things i couldn’t have 
learned from anyone else 
like 
i shouldn’t be happy 
about kind words 
if only because 
those kind words are so 
rare

— teacher

(vii)

i found love in your heart 
every now and then 
it made me smile 
when you laughed at 
my jokes and 
my quirks 
because not everyone 
could make you laugh 
but i could 
and i did 
the memory of you 
fades more every day but 
i’ll never forget
how i felt
when you laughed 
next to me

(viii)

i don’t understand why 
you trust me 
but you do 
and i don’t have a 
problem with that 
so i let you tell me 
how horrible your world is 
and i never tell you 
how destructive my own is 
i let you think 
you’re the only miserable one 
and i try to convince you 
that you are worth 
something

all the while 
i still find myself 
on the bathroom floor 
sometimes

(ix)

how do you love at fourteen?

i smile
shrug

loving at fourteen isn’t hard 
it’s like 
breathing but the air isn’t 
harsh against your lungs anymore 
and getting out of bed 
isn’t a living nightmare anymore

loving at fourteen isn’t hard 
it’s what comes after that breaks you

(x)

i guess i don’t want to live 
in a world that doesn’t smell like you 
that’s why i keep your jacket 
for months after you leave my house
(the last time i see your face)
on that hot july day 
with a little smile 
you said to me 
see you later
i smiled back 
said 
yeah sure
i didn’t know then 
that i was lying 
but i sure as hell knew 
that my smile 
was painted on

— the last time we saw each other

(xi)

i lecture
myself 
because no one else will 
no one else 
knows i love you 
and loving you 
makes me spit poison 
down their throats 
instead of 
offering to help them 
after you
spit poison down 
their throats 
first

(xii)

it’s loving at fourteen 
that makes me whisper 
i like girls
please don’t hate me 
don’t make me 
sleep on the cold streets 
because 
i’m not like you

mother says
that’s fine

her murmur tastes sweet 
on my cold ears 
i sleep peacefully 
first time in years

loving at fourteen 
dreaming of someday 
holding your hand
across the 
breakfast table 
reading the newspaper 
white picket fence 
lining our little life 
your smile 
the first thing i see 
in the morning

loving you at fourteen 
makes me tell secrets 
lined with the
blood of my guts

it feels good to be free of them

(xiii)

i take a gander 
at choosing a coffin 
because 
i know that’s where 
this is going 
we’re dying babe 
i can only smile 
and pretend 
i still care about 
the poison 
you lick onto 
the roof of my mouth 
without ever laying 
a single clawed finger on me

— she says, “you don’t talk enough.”

(xiv)

i let you sleep in my bed 
and do not dare 
slip under the covers 
next to your body

instead 
the bed on the other side of the room 
is where i pretend to sleep 
while i actually 
listen to your harried breathing 
your insomnia-wrecked sleep

i close my eyes 
and pretend 
that your breathing 
is inches away from my face 
instead of several feet across the room

i wish 
you could love me

i wish 
you were listening to me breathe

i wish 
that morning was a myth

(xv)

we’re over 
you walk out 
on a hot july day 
unaware of how much 
i hate you 
for being so happy 
when i know 
i am never going 
to want to speak to you again 
because 
the poison in my mouth 
finally tastes like poison 
not the sweet cinnamon 
that flooded my mouth 
whenever you spoke 
and
i’ve never wanted to die 
i’ve only wanted to stop living 
for a few moments

and honey 
you made me stop living 
for more than a few moments

for the first time 
i want to join the land of the living 
and smile 
for the sake of myself

not you 
never you

it will never again be 
you

— self-care for dummies

(xvi)

how to love at fourteen

(written on the back of a napkin)

  1. find a girl who sometimes pays attention
  2. tell yourself you’re too young to know
  3. realize you love her anyway
  4. make her your world
  5. put her before yourself
  6. end it when the poison is too much
  7. hate her with a tumultuous anger
  8. continue to love her in the back of your mind
  9. never speak to her again
  10. wish she would have listened to your monologue
  11. prepare your soliloquy

(xvii)

you ask me 
why won’t you talk to me
i stare at my phone screen 
bright in the 3 AM darkness 
turn around to face the window 
stare at the night sky 
wonder if 
you 
are looking at the same sky 
and thinking about 
me 
wishing you 
would have listened to my breathing

your jacket 
is loose 
around my shoulders 
and torso 
you are taller than me

that’s why 
i always looked up 
instead of 
straight ahead

(xviii)

everyone wants to know 
why you’re asking all around 
about my well-being 
and mumbling 
about how i haven’t 
talked to you lately

i laugh 
because 
i guess you can’t 
imagine a life 
where i ignore you 
because i want to 
not because i need to

you call me 
i answer 
against my better judgment 
i’m sorry
i don’t speak
but hanging up 
is loud enough 
to say

too late

(xix)

black coffee always tasted 
sweeter when you were with me 
because 
you took your coffee 
with an obscene 
amount of sugar 
and so much milk 
it could have 
filled a gallon 
and i wanted you to think 
i was tougher than i am
so i asked for it plain 
sitting across from you 
wind blowing through 
your cornfield hair 
you’re beautiful
whispering sweetness 
into your eyes 
always made you bashful 
i mean it
i think you’re beautiful

you shrugged
if you say so

and you didn’t call me beautiful 
because i wasn’t

— it wasn’t a date

(xx)

next time i love 
it won’t be at fourteen 
that will make it no easier 
no less painful 
no less of a love 
next time i love 
i won’t be loving you 
and i wish i could know 
how you feel about that 
because i never said 
i love you 
but we both know 
that my eyes 
and my smile 
and my words 
and my laugh 
were a confession 
every single time

loving at fourteen wasn’t hard 
it was the poetry that came after 
that ended up breaking me

fin

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