“No” to Brunch

“No” to Brunch

“Not this time.”

I tell you, my peach

With your plump, peachy lips

That are soft and sliced

And left to dry

Alone with their own flavor

I turn my face from you

My cantaloupe

My fruity babe that fills up space

Reserved for

Some other fruit

That appreciates my attention

You strawberry

You devilish sweet

You kiss my cheek instead of leaving

To leave on it

Juice red and sweet

And tempt me with affection

But my watermelon

You juicy gourd

Filled to the rinds

With watered down lies

You are not yet ripe enough

For my brunch this evening

So I say “no”

My pineapple love

Because your sweetness is deceitful

I’ll relish your taste

A tingly delicacy

As the acid digests me whole

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That Heart of Mine

I left my heart somewhere near you
And I guess you haven’t sent him back yet

Or maybe you just haven’t noticed him there

Lying beside you

I laid him by you years ago

I left him there

Thinking he’d come search for me

Leap into my chest once more

But he likes you best

Even in neglect

You’re warmer all over

And you excite him more than I alone ever could

He’s attached to you

That heart of mine

As if he longs for company

I guess he knows

That lying by your feet

With the possibility

of your hand in attention

Is better than

A thousand other hands

Less familiar

And unsure

He whimpers occasionally

I hear him now

But the mess around you

Might be so cluttered and dense

That all you hear is rejection

Maybe he’s been covered up by it

Buried beneath the debris of your past life

Moments you tried to lose yourself in

People who fell away

Fears you kept close because

you couldn’t quite toss them aside

Feelings, you did the same with

Maybe he finds comfort there

Amidst things that smell of you

Tainted a bit

By the stink of dismissal

But mingled in with a sweetness

That I’d never once denied

He’s lonely too

That heart of mine

I’d wish you’d go and notice him

Before he shrivels up

down by your feet

Pathetic and yet forever loyal

Brink

Brink

I feel like I’m on the brink of something

Like I’m right on the edge

Like I’m right about to get to it

Like I’m right there on its tail

And I only have to reach my hand out

And take it…

If I could, I would

If I could, I would

If I could, I would…

Would I?

If I could?

Would I?

Because I’ve felt like I’ve been on the brink of something for a very long time now

Because I’ve felt like I’ve been on the tip of something since… damn near forever

Because I’ve felt like I was going to be somebody since…

I don’t know how long

But I’ve felt it

And I’ve known it

And yet I’m not

But I swear…

I swear that I’m on the brink of something…

I would tell you even now that I’m on the brink of something

Even now

After spending all my energy

And confidence

And cash

Just reaching

Even now after all this time

I would still tell you

With great certainty

And great feeling

That I swear that its there

That I’m on the brink of something

I know it

Because Goddamn it

I feel like I’m on the brink of something

I have to be on the brink of something

I have to be close to the edge by now

So I can finally leap the fuck off of it

I know that I’m on the brink of something

If only

I knew what it was…

Haven’t I been on the brink of something?

Does everyone feel like they’re on the brink of something?

Have I been continually and perpetually deluding myself?

Because

I’d tell you

I’d bet you

I’d’d swear,

I’d bet

It’s right there

Isn’t it?

Dream

It’s just a dream, you know

Yeah, I dream a lot

Sometimes it feels so real

I think it’s my duty

To fall back asleep

Like I used to feel

When there was something pressing

Or important

For me to do in the morning

But now?

The most pressing part of my life

Is dreaming about you

You’ve Always Been

I decided on you a long time ago. I was just waiting for you to catch up.

I used to watch you beneath the covers of my dreams. You’d touch my arms lightly and my hair would stand up. I could feel the world rotate in my stomach. Next to you. Watching you. Next to me.

I love your face. It fills my mind in the morning, at night, as well as those odd, quiet, in-between moments when I’m not quite sure of where I am. Or what time it is. Or if I was dreaming. At those times, you’re there too. With your long brown hair that flows about you like water around a mermaid. Smooth and graceful. And that smile that could guide a ship back to harbor. Bright and mesmerizing.

And tonight you lie facing me. Eyes open. Smile bright. Hair flowing. And I can’t stop wanting to cry. Happy tears. Because you’re really there. Because I can feel every movement in my body. I’m so still and quiet and awake. Next to you. I can hear my heart beating. Maybe I just feel it. Thumping about. Egging you closer. I put my hand on your bare waist. I’m not sure why. It just seems like a nice place for a hand to be. My hand specifically. And I pull you closer and I kiss your cheek. Your lips remain yours. You give them when you like, but the majority of your face I’ve claimed for myself. I let myself retreat, but you pull me back with both hands and kiss me this time. My lips are yours and the world rotates faster than Pocahontas’ spinning arrow. Right there. In my stomach.

You retreat now. I’m still dizzy. But I take note of you. It’s my favorite thing to do. Your brows are scrunched. You keep your thoughts held up like that. In-between both eyebrows. Often.

“What’s wrong?” I ask. Goddamn you’re beautiful. My goofy smile just won’t fall off.

“Nothing’s wrong,” you say, but your thought is still stuck. I press my thumb there, on your forehead, to try and relieve some pressure. It doesn’t work, so I kiss it instead. That part’s mine too. You smile a bit bigger.

“I just…” you start. But don’t finish. I don’t interrupt. It’s hard not to watch you.

You start again, “I was just wondering…”

I’m always interested in what you wonder. I nod my head to signal I’m still listening.

“…Am I your girlfriend?”

I laugh. And pause. And ask, “Would you like to be?”

You just raise an eyebrow in response and say, “Obviously.”

I laugh again. You’re so damn sassy. “Well then,” I say. “Fucking finally.”

I think you liked that. Because you buried the largest smile I’ve ever seen into my neck.

I’m caught in a wave of your hair. The smell: a rich vanilla. I hold you tightly. Close, but gentle. In my mind, you’ve always been my girlfriend.

https://soundcloud.com/faithe-yates/youve-always-been

Reluctant Advice

The best advice I’ve ever been given was told to me reluctantly.

At the time, I was about fifteen and my mama and I weren’t very good at having good days or good conversations. There was no one we loved more than each other, but that was why it hurt so much to be around one another. Occasionally, our personal wishes for one another’s lives obscured the love we felt. We both wanted each other to be different. Better. Stronger. Kinder. It hurt when the other didn’t want the same. It felt like rejection. As a result, our words meant too much to be said without extreme consequence. Even things said with love in mind felt like attacks. So the very best days I had with my mother were spent talking about frivolous, detached things or otherwise spent in silence.

On our special days out, away from the rest of the family — my absolute favorite days, mama and I would go to the movies, or out to eat, or, other times, shopping. We realized we couldn’t stare at each other the entire outing so we structured our interactions. For conversation, we’d give our opinions on the most obviously annoying things: how hopeless the acting was in the movie, how terrible the waiter’s service had been at this restaurant, or how hideous the dresses were at Macy’s. We were expert critics with years of experience gained from trying to improve each other. So, when we went out, we’d laugh and laugh and laugh at the hilarity of our joint negativity because, conjunctively, it was directed elsewhere.

One early Saturday morning, while my daddy and little brothers were asleep, my mama woke me up excitedly and asked if I wanted to go shopping. I didn’t really like shopping. I still don’t (I never really know what I want and the clerk’s constant inquiries make me question how put together my life is). But, my mama and I had argued the day before and by then I’d learned how difficult it was for parents to say “I’m sorry”. Instead of using words, Mama sat at the edge of my bed, hopeful and apologetic, still learning her way in the world, and trying to make it up to me. So I said, “Okay, Mama,” with a smile that mimed “I accept.” I needed some new shirts anyway.

My mama, beautiful, mocha-tinted, and battered from years of childbearing paired with under appreciation, let out an excited shriek, grin reaching her hazel, tired eyed, and kissed me emphatically all over my face.

“Hurry up and get dressed then!” She smiled, jumping up and down on my bed with her knees, the force of which almost rocked me out of it. I laughed and she hurried away exuberant.

We sang songs on our way there like we usually did during car rides (singing didn’t require conversation). It took an hour to drive to any mall worth perusing, so we drove through various playlists I’d burned onto CDs. While my mama sang, I organized her wallet, annoyed at the way she never could keep it orderly, but secretly looking forward to the mild, scattered times in which she’d comment, “Oh… you really do do that beautifully…”

When we finally arrived at the teenaged section in Macy’s, we poured our attention into searching for pretty things. My mama would bring me shirts or dresses she liked and I vetoed the things I didn’t (usually frills and flowers), but if she begged me long enough I’d roll my eyes and try on the pieces from the vetoed pile anyway. If I wasn’t looking for items myself or running back and forth from the dressing room, I was scanning the room for sales clerks to avoid, ready to flee to another section if any one got too close. Mama knew how much I didn’t like it, but still had a tendency to call those poor souls over. They’d ask me questions I had no answer to, like “what are you looking for?” or “what do you generally like?” and I’d stare at them in genuine confusion, hoping to God they’d make both our lives easier by giving up and turning around. Occasionally, they got the hint quickly and left with a “just call me over again when you decide!” Other times we’d be roaming around awkwardly for a good twenty minutes. It never felt kind or helpful when Mama asked for their assistance. She did it against my pleas, so, by insisting, she was telling me to “get over it,” like I wasn’t a person yet and my distastes were just phases to “grow out” of. Whenever she did, parts of the day’s positive intentions were canceled out, despite the silence attempting to keep it intact, but that day, luckily, I was able to evade it.

After a few hours of avoiding sales people and modeling for my mother, we found a good stack of clothes that we both agreed on. We checked out, bought some of that chocolate that stores always tempt you with after you’ve already pulled out your wallet, and that was that. We were done.

Now, there was nothing left to do but leave (no frivolous things left to fill the empty silences with), so we headed back to the car quietly, chocolate in hand. My mama led the way and I trailed behind her with all of my bags swinging side to side across my hips because buyers never carry merchandise.

Unfortunately, the store was very busy by that time and it was difficult to maneuver through the crowd. I tried my best not to hit things and people, but I was the clumsiest person I knew and always had been. At the time, all my parts didn’t really feel mine yet, so much so, I could hardly keep track of them. The days I’d managed not to trip over my own feet were deemed very successful.

Attempting to take responsibility for myself and young enough to be overly used to being wrong, I whispered apologies to the people I lightly smacked and occasionally even to the rolling make-up carts that created mazes across the bottom-most floor.

One. Two. Three — rolling carts were apologized to and reset in their places.

One. Two. Three. Four — people smiled politely and apologized back to me (they’d been in the way too). As I was turning away from my fourth “sorry,” another one slammed into me.

My left arm swung behind me, taken aback quite literally, and I nearly dropped half of my load.

“I’m so sorry!” I announced preemptively, before I’d set eyes on my assailed or even recovered my footing.

Looking up, repentance still hanging off my lips, I saw a tight-nosed, blonde woman briefly look up from her phone, clearly annoyed to have run into someone despite her own distractions. An old looking 35-ish, skin baked from over tanning, the woman gave a brief stoic nod of acceptance before stalking off again on noisy, gold high heels.

I re-aligned myself to continue walking behind Mama, mildly affronted, but an ever faithful duckling. However, my mama had also stopped when she’d heard the altercation and was now staring at me discernibly.

My mama had twenty-something years on me and therefore had probably dealt with that many years more of high-heeled entitlement. I’m sure the extra time accounted for the extra amount of annoyance on her face. Maybe even for the glares she gave the woman’s bare back when she’d barely acknowledged my presence. Now eyeing me, Mama’s face was a mixture of annoyance, disbelief, and confusion. It looked like I had personally offended her and she was momentarily trying to decide if it was worth breaking our tacit agreement to confront me about it. She squinted her eyes just enough to show she’d made a decision and, for the first time all day, spoke directly to me about something other than music and clothes.

“Don’t apologize for taking up space,” she said, almost wearily and moderately toned, with a tinge of disbelief still stuck in the corner of her eye. “You have the same right to exist in your space as everyone else does. You’re not here to be other people’s doormats. Everyone is allowed space to breathe in.”

As she shook her head, almost pityingly, I felt oddly defensive. I squirmed in my skin as she looked at me, unsure of where to place my own gaze. Somehow being told I was being a doormat felt even worse than getting my bags dismissively knocked out of my hand. It wasn’t hurtful. It was just highly uncomfortable.

“But I’d knocked into her,” I insisted lamely. Needing to say something. “It was polite to apologize.”

She replied simply, “My children are not doormats,” but now felt awkward herself. She never knew what to do when I responded and didn’t want our day to turn sour, so, eyeing the ground, she quickly turned her back to me again and continued our walk.

In the car, once more we submitted to the agreement of the day. Acting as if we’d never spoken a word, we made our way home, eating the rest of our chocolate, blasting our ears away with tunes we both knew well enough to sing to, and laughing at whatever lyrics were confidently sung wrong.

We pretended otherwise, but Mama had indeed broken our tacit agreement. She’d told me something directly that had the potential to amass great consequence. But there was something about the intention. Something about the delivery: hesitant, yet deliberate, said with concern rather than in critique. Something there that remained with me, even though so many other moments have melted away in forgiveness. Something there… that made it a lasting memory of love.

The Girl & The Bird

The girl:

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, fly.

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, fly!

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, why?

Do you stay here?

You have lived your whole life in a cage

You have left when I have allowed

You have eaten from my hand when I have decided to feed you

But now you are a free bird, pretty bird

Free to fly and use those wings, once broken and now mended, and lean them against the soft caresses of the wind

And yet here you stay perched on my window sill

Still

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, fly!

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, FLY!

Pretty bird, pretty bird, pretty bird, WHY?

Do you stay here?

Don’t you know what you are missing? Have you not seen it yet?

Far from here are vast summer landscapes, stretching their arms across the horizon…

Far from here are great blue oceans who plant sweet kisses on the sky at sunset as she blushes amorously…

Wouldn’t you like to see them?

My pretty bird, my pretty bird, my pretty bird…

Have you grown used to captivity?

Have you become accustomed to wishes less grand than you are capable?

Because you should have greater dreams than this Pretty Bird!

Do I sit here and dream for you?

Does your small bird brain not allow you to dream grand dreams?

The bird:

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, Hi.

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, Hi!

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, why?

Do you sit there?

You have lived countless lifetimes in that chair

You have left only to watch me glide

You have eaten only when I remind you of meal time

And now you point through the window and say, “Free yourself, Pretty bird!”

But I have always been free

Why aren’t you?

When we met you were broken, but now you are better

Not mended but less torn apart

I have loved you and fed you and kept you alive, so that you could be free to leave me

To make your way toward cities and culture and people and to explore

And yet you still sit in that chair

There

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, leave.

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, LEAVE!

Pretty girl, pretty girl, pretty girl, Please.

Do not stay here!

Don’t you know what you are missing?

Have you not felt it yet?

Near here, is the love that flows through every flower, every tree, and every animal The same love that will happily find you if you reach your hand out to it

Near here, are crowds of fumbling people, lovers, and dreamers, all just as lost as you, and waiting anxiously to offer comfort if you dare ask

I have seen them. Wouldn’t you like to?

To reach beyond to your full potential? To outstretch what you view as your meager capabilities?

My pretty girl, my pretty girl, my pretty pretty girl…

Have you grown used to captivity?

Must I perch here and dream things for you?

Has your useless human brain stopped you from seeing clearly?

Acting Cool

You’ll never know how nervous I was to hold your hand the first time. I was trying to act cool. Like I wasn’t on fire or about to faint. It wasn’t even a special circumstance. It wasn’t even about us. We were in a large group and they asked us all to take each other’s hands. I was holding someone else’s hand with my left. But I didn’t notice them. I don’t remember them at all. Not even slightly. I just remember you to my right. I didn’t look at you. I was so nervous. I thought my body was going to explode. And your hand was right there. I was surprised when I could move mine towards yours. I couldn’t actually feel it at the time. So it was weird that it responded to my wants so easily. I slipped my fingers into your palm slowly and it just fit there. Like you welcomed it as normal. Like it was the most natural thing in the world. Except that I could feel every millimeter of my hand now. Even the pores that were profusely sweating. That wasn’t normal or natural. But it was amazing. I was burning from the inside out. My hand was going to fall off. My arm was going to leave with it. And I was trying to not let it show on my face. I was trying to act cool. And we finished whatever activity we were doing and I swear I wanted to keep you so badly. But I let you go. My fingers fell. A bit slowly because… Well. I didn’t really want them to fall at all. But I was acting cool. Like it didn’t matter. Like I wasn’t sure. Right then. That I loved you. And it must’ve worked, since you never noticed how much I felt for you. Because you wondered if I wanted you then. And you dismissed your feelings like they weren’t reciprocated. So I guess, now I wish I hadn’t been so cool.

False Security

I got used to the calm

Serene. Simple.

It felt purposeful

Deliberate. Void of ripples.

Shallow waters. Glass surface.

I fell into

False security.

Drops.

Ripples to waves.

Panic ensued.

Eyes open. Wide and strange.

I’d been lied to.

Insomnia. Deranged.

When I called you.

I was crippled.

Fast talk. Deep breaths.

We went slowly.

Pre-thought. Repress.

Past anxieties.

Thought I’d dealt with it myself

But it was only

False security.

Birthday Pancakes

Birthday Pancakes

My birthday was always my favorite day

Every year before school started

My mama woke me up with a kiss

That she plopped excitedly

On my forehead

Then my cheek

And then my cheek once more

And whispered in my uncovered ear

“Happy Birthday, baby.”

She didn’t know I’d been waiting for her

And was unaware that I was too excited to sleep

Anticipating the one day

I was more important than air

Waiting for the one day

I felt magnificently seen

It didn’t matter if she was mad the day before

If she’d been crying

If she’d been screaming

Whatever feelings my mama felt

Were pushed aside

For twenty-four hours

The amount of time

That an ocean of love

Could drown out locked up emotions

Before the tides receded

Leaving her with herself once more

And I could tell that my love

Of her love

Spread all the way through her to her finger tips

That stroked my hair and asked me how large I wanted

My birthday pancakes

Six years of living meant six pancakes

And six candles spread through the face

Each cake stacked atop another

In a tower that wobbled with love

With happy birthday written in whipped cream

And with those cherries always stuck in Shirley Temples

Made into a goofy grin that looked straight at me

Excited to be eaten

Everyone in the house was woken up

So they could all sing

Happy Birthday

To the girl with the birthday placemat

Who really loved her mama

And I remember it all with great clarity

Especially on my personal anniversary

When others forget

Or no one’s around

And I have to remind myself

Of my own importance

And I stare at my morning breakfast

Remembering my mama’s pancakes

And thinking that no one could ever quite love me

As vastly as my mama

Showed me she did

Every year on my birthday