If my friends knew how much I danced
in the shower, they’d judge me—pardon me,
Earth, for all the water I’ve wasted—pardon
me for the spit in my mouth I give back
to make up for it. I’ve been told to make amends
when possible; the side effect is this heart
of mine caught up in shrinking and growing—
pardon, groaning—pardon, gloating. This is why
I dance in the water, to make joy something
precarious—pardon, precious—to learn to love
the threat of slipping, of losing balance.
If my friends knew that I can never throw away
sentimental things without kissing them goodbye,
they’d laugh about me—pardon, laugh at me—
and give names to anything I touch.
How do we learn shame for our little rituals?
Everyone I know walks backward out of dark
rooms and basements because we all know
haunters—pardon me, monsters—that make us
shudder. We are the strength we practice.
I practice writing poems not meant for prophet—
pardon, profit—pardon, private. I don’t go to mass
but privately I do the sign of the cross sometimes
when I need grounding, when I need to hold on.
There’s this earthquake I keep in my pocket I pray
I never show anyone; I’m okay letting myself
get torn apart—pardon, in part, because I might
deserve it. If my friends knew that I haven’t always
been a good man, I wouldn’t bother asking
them to pardon me—arrogance and freedom
are close cousins of mine. I have this little ritual:
recalling all the “last times” I didn’t realize
were lasts at the time—full hands, a full heart,
kisses that weren’t farewells, the echo of heat
that is thunder. Maybe I am what I fear
follows me out of the dirt—pardon, dark.
I fear I am an earthquake; I fear when I finally
crack, the earth will tell you from above and below.