When it Hurts to Smile

You never used to make me laugh in a loud, gut-wrenching kind of way. Not that often, anyway.

It was just the way you made me constantly smile.

You would hold my whole fucking face in one of your big hands and tell me my cheeks must be tired from all that grinning.

You were right; they were. They always were. But I couldn’t stop because you wouldn’t let me. And that made me so happy.



I never had dreams before you.

And then I only dreamt when things went bad between us. Waking up without you, feeling very acutely that I was alone.

When I think of us, it doesn’t hurt like it’s supposed to. It just aches. Because I know that whatever we had, what once felt so special, now, means nothing.

Sometimes I wonder if you ever think of me. If you ever look at that bed we used to share and miss us in it. But then, I think I already know the answer, because I rarely do myself.

I just don’t understand. I thought you were my first love—in those moments, you used to say to me, no one could ever love you as much as I do, and I believed you.

So then, why, when I think of you, do I feel such apathy?

It doesn’t suit the love I thought we had.

Two Lies and a Truth

1. I want to be with you.

Those are the words I was always too afraid to say to you. I thought, if they were to be spoken, in the way I would have more than likely spoken them (rushed and clumsy with little to no eye contact), then they would have lit like the tip of a Molotov cocktail and blown our entire dynamic to pieces.

2. I want to be with me.

The mantra I recite in my head every morning before I drag my still lifeless form from my nightly grave. The real reason, I always told myself, that I refused to utter the former statement. As a woman of the 21st century, it would be a waste of a Black female body to shackle it to the same dead stone I would have been fated to in any century prior.

3. I don’t know how to be with anyone.

If the other two were half lies, this was the full truth. I don’t understand what it means to have somebody outside of myself and feel, with unconflicted conviction, that I have every right to reach out and grab that hand and mold it with my own. That it’s alright to fix my mouth to call out your name and expect you to turn, face absent of exasperation or annoyance, and look at me with that quiet, insistent knowledge that your name on my lips is poetry to your hungry ears.

I just ask that you forgive me for being so insecure in my belief that I can be loved. I never meant for it to act as red herring to my unfaltering belief that I could love you in every way I could never imagine you would want to love me in return.

Love From a Distance

I only know how to love from a distance.

You call to me to come closer and I do,

Inch by inch, I walk into your embrace—

But your arms suffocate me.

I try to not breathe deep breaths

I try not to want the full expansion of my lungs

I try not to long for the pleasure of a simple stretch, unencumbered by your cage.

But I fail.

I push at your chest and you release me,

I take a breath like I’d never before breathed.

You, angry, hurt, come at me with those same arms, ready to suffocate me again;

And I, scared, hurting, turn my back to you and flee.

The gap widens,

I leave you behind.

When I turn around you are but a silhouette

And I can finally smile.


From the distance I can see your dreams,

Your beauty—

All of the good in you.

I yearn to be near you.

But I know it would be better

To set myself aflame

And cast light on your shadowy figure from afar,

If only so you can see

Why you shouldn’t want to be near me.