I Swear I Can(n't) Breathe

“Amazing,” he breathes, eyes bright,

and you cave,
words spilling like water
Here are the things he won’t tell you

The shadows under his eyes,

the cut of his jaw, sharper as of late,

the crease in his brows,  

the emerging cheekbones,

they are your fault.

He’ll smile--the strained kind--
he’ll laugh
It isn’t ok.

It won’t be alright.

Don't ignore the signs,
because there are things he won’t tell you

Everything aches at night
because his bones are an anchor dragging him down;

He’s stranded in the sea of bed covers,

gazing out into nothing, while
each knock on the locked vault has him screaming,

because walls can’t hold his ghosts;

There are days he watches the ground, and
when the skin peels away, everything rushes out at once--

silent and loud

Nothing will shut up
you won't shut up
he can't make it shut up
Could you listen?

(You never seem to listen)
There are things he can't tell you

but his body will

Things fall apart

not because he can’t speak,

because you can’t hear
You know he hides,

but you don’t know how to find him


You want to fight his demons,
but they aren't yours to slay, and  
when morning comes,

he looks like he’s been wrestling gators

These are the things you won’t say:
you're holding your breath when you hand over his chipped mug, and
the brush of your hands feels like a declaration;
he can’t keep throwing himself at the front lines, and

if he is the battlefield, you're not sure you’ll survive the war;
you’ll kiss every scar, but especially the few on his hands;

You’re not perfect either

If this is love, maybe it's meant to hurt,
when everything waits on the swing of your words,

the flight of his moods;
this is not a desert,

but you're still sinking in the sand;
there’s no ocean between you,

but your lungs are still full of salt water,

and there is no lighthouse to guide you;
If this is love maybe you don’t want it

Maybe he doesn’t want it

It hurts more getting up from the fall

than it ever does hitting the ground; and
if each touch is the start of a forest fire,

you're both children striking matches,

but this is right for you both

And maybe you don’t want love,
but you never stopped following the scent of smoke on the wind,
so maybe love isn't about want,

but need, and

You need him

This poem is about: 
My community
Our world
Poetry Terms Demonstrated: 


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