PBS: A poem that didn’t want to be a poem

So for Poem Back Saturday (my version of Throwback Thursday), I was looking through some old files and came across a poem I called Lines for Almost. The poem never quite worked as as poem, I always thought but had some things I really liked. It’s since been reworked into a song (which I often do for fun and also to see how something is working on a purely sound-driven level—it’s a surprisingly helpful exercise). I think it must have always wanted to be one for it works much better sung than on the written page.

Lines for Almost
It was a strange case of nothing. Our hands filled up with
palm line fortunes that just couldn’t be
read. Untranslatable futures mistaken
for something divine. Here is where you said
that all lines ended and still I held my hands
out for you.
We played forgiveness
like a game; dice rolls of I’m sorry and the banker collects, collects,
and then gives out. I think I only ever shocked you once with my
willingness; some words I flung at you in hopes of turning back the
clock. You accepted until you felt full; there are only so many ways to
say it until it feels like emptiness.
Of you I used to know nothing
save for the space
that you always placed between your words
chosen so carefully
that I always wanted them to mean everything.
We tried to eat bits of gravel, just that once, and I
still feel that sharp break of my tooth and you watched me spit blood
onto the ground until my spit finally came back clear. It tasted like
the earth filled up with salt. Someone noticed that break years later
and I lied, another bit of shame at foolishness, and blamed rock candy.
It was a pun that only I could get. And you.
Finally it was you
playing games on the steps of my porch
jumping up one and down two
until I could no longer tell
which was where you meant to be.


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