By Dasha Kelly

I only think of leaving you
in between the slotted points
of morning
Before swinging my feet
from beneath these worn blankets
and forcing my weight
onto the floor
I think of leaving you then
Imagining myself rising to greet
the sun from some
new horizon
a new mattress
a new walk to brush my teeth
I think of leaving you
behind me
Tucking away your disappointments
and afflictions
like snapshots
stuffed into shoe boxes
never destined for a frame
We’d always talk
about sorting them out and
pressing labels onto
photo album spines, but
is all we’ve ever been good at
Together, wondering what this relationship
might be if I could reengineer
the ambitious wiring that led me back
to you in the first place
If you could engine past the rust
and biting decay I
once said gave you
your charm

Infatuation and foresight are not meant to
swirl inside the same thought

I’m sure we never planned on
resenting each other
for the edges of these blueprints
we’ve worked so diligently to align
I wouldn’t be surprised if you hoped
to find a note one day
An overwritten apology
scratched in my lopsided and tumbling hand
You might not even
read it right away
Breathe aloud that sigh of relief trapped
behind your cream city bricks
Lie back instead letting dry stubble,
aluminum cans, and refuse
consume you
Remind yourself that there are others
who will love you just the way you are
Adoring hearts plentiful who won’t insist on
constant evolution
studying the neighboring Joneses
or changing the only way
you ever learned how to love:
and without flourish

And I always knew this about you
Didn’t settle myself into your spaces
unaware of your history
unsympathetic to the rugged hands that
yanked and pulled at your upbringing
tragically convincing you that
is all you should ever strive for

And you knew that I’ve always been different
Not necessarily special or extraordinary
just different
That I’ve only been coached to peek under the sun
for promise and wild imaginings
You’ve been more successful at being practical
You know better, you said, than to risk singeing
the tips of your fingers on the surface of the sun
I tried to show you how
beautiful the scars can be sometimes

I suppose we’re both guilty
of waiting
of secretly hoping for more, of looking
for some folding back of rigid demands
and a chiseling away of sharp corners
We’ve each tried our hands at changing in some previous lifetime
You, failing to model your trendy peers
Me, bumbling through my revised declarations of independence
We’ve long ago resigned ourselves to be ourselves
So how can this sense of “we” survive
the harsh lights of failed expectations?

I empty my coffee into the sink
I slide on my shoes and my lipstick
and prepare to wrap
my face in
raw morning sun
I won’t think of
leaving you then
With your crisp smell
slipping familiar into my chest
Your concrete rising to meet my feet
You’ve always known how I move, even
when you couldn’t understand my walk
I don’t plan to leave you
anytime soon, Milwaukee

I’m still hopeful
we can find more loving to do ■



Dasha Kelly has released four spoken-word recordings, written two novels, and appeared on HBO’s Russell Simmons Presents Def Poetry Jam. She has twice been a finalist for Poet Laureate of Wisconsin and was named Artist of the Year by the City of Milwaukee. She also founded Still Waters Collective, a network for storytellers and language enthusiasts. Kelly was the first artist-in-residence invited to Lebanon’s Rafiki Hariri University for a partnership with the American University of Beirut. She has traveled as a US Embassy Arts Envoy to Botswana and the Island of Mauritius.

Cover image of Milwaukee, Wisconsin from 35,000 feet. Photo by Ron Reiring. (CC BY 2.0)

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