I don’t usually write about girls
by which i mean, i know what your thigh feels like
against my foot. the little flex of your waist
when you’re reaching for a cupboard. i’ve seen
the line running down your midriff every time
you tie your hair and it still makes my mouth run dry but
i don’t, like, write about it. i don’t know how to,
because poetry for me is about wanting
and i’m still trying to figure out how to want you,
how to do it right, how to let myself relax
into your side instead of running from it.
a friend of ours once told me i throw myself at everyone
but i’ve only ever tried to escape from you. last week
you said that it was fine to flirt with me when you had a boyfriend
because it’s not like, serious, you know. you’re not an actual option.
i wound my arm around your shoulder to check on the stove
and wondered how long we could pretend it’s not
serious. everyone in this goddamn house smells
like your avocado shampoo. i remember your address
because it’s a perfect square and you taught me how to calculate
those by heart in seventh grade. our school used to have a group chat
that was exclusively for sending candid photos of you. you’re kind of
the main character, you know? with your flannel shirts that hang lower than your shorts
and thighs as thick as my bicep and baby hairs that curl desperately
against your forehead in the rain. you doodle these perfect anime eyes
in your physics notes for fun and get 98s on the tests. you misspell
easy words and make them look cute. the first time i heard
that 1975 song, i screamed she’s got a boyfriend anyway on instinct
and i think you know why.
for the longest time i didn’t think i could write this poem.
i was waiting for permission to be hungry before i realized
it is nobody else’s job to care if i am full.
so here i am. i want you
and i want to be you, my desires worth more than an afterthought.
you hate everybody for not being you.
i sit next to you on the curb and sneak photos
of you licking the ice cream off your spoon,
of you squinting at the sun like a fool,
a million pictures to prove you existed and none with me in them.
i want the proof of our shared existence
to be the fact of my documenting it,
today i feel like the memory of someone else,
and memories don’t fit inside memories like that.
next year, we’ll be sharing cramped dormitory bathrooms
and sputtering kitchen sinks, suitemates on the edge
of failure. this year all we share is a girl,
a paper cup with two spoons inside, but the knife-edge of it
all feels the same. i don’t know how to make you want me
to succeed. my sweetmate, i feel like i am always asking you
for things you aren’t willing to give.
won’t you stay and watch me run out
of clever jokes to make?
these days all i do is watch you charge forward
into a movie scene, shirt flapping in the wind,
bike careening towards the horizon —
and here i am, the expired one, walking in your wake.
come on, star girl. sit and wait a while. the sun won’t go anywhere
if you stop to catch your breath. i got you an ice cream:
the kind you love, with the crumbled Oreos inside,
soft so they won’t scratch your gums.
Joyce Liu (she/her) is a young poet from Canada. She got her driver’s license last fall but is still scared of the highway. More of her work can be found in released and upcoming issues of perhappened mag, Gone Lawn, and Vagabond City. Joyce tweets sometimes at @joyceliuwrites.