—After “Minnows” by Sabrina Benaim.
I saw you perform one poem at some bar in Vancouver
And woke up the next morning in Toronto terrified we’d never meet
You loosened up by shimmy shaking your shoulders like a ball player,
Like you just posterized some defenseless rookie and walked over their body
Howling fe-fi-fo- motherfucking-fum
You took the mic and your voice was so high
I felt like a dog in your arms, paddling my paws
For earth in the air.
Your hair, swept to the right, a frozen waterfall,
Melting like someone just said, “Green light.”
Your eyes were pools, yes, but the public kind
That welcome the beaten and the broken.
Your hands traced what your words would look like
If they did not evaporate once spoken
You spoke of a boy whose love was an ocean,
And how you sang to him from its depths for him to jump in,
Or at least check in on you while you slept,
But all you got were minnows in your stomach
In my first draft of this poem, your minnows were little
Fish MacGuyvers, no mullets, just mad skills.
They managed to call my cell from your stomach
And ask if I would show you back to the surface.
When I asked, “Why me?” They said, “This is plenty miraculous already”
So in draft two, your minnows didn’t talk anymore.
But when they saw you were about to drown in their ocean,
They swam into your lungs and breathed for you.
When they realized you’d called them butterflies,
They taught you to breathe underwater so you’d stick around.
They’d never felt lifted without getting hooked on something
It was only when they caught you staring at his shadow
On the surface that they knew it was unrequited love.
So they let you be with your desperate burning,
Your infinite string of maybes and hopes that were nooses,
Praying you’d do chin-ups with them to loosen his hold on you.
But you just floated in place
It took me three drafts to say what I meant to from the start:
I have this habit of falling for people’s essences
Before getting to know the rest of them.
It’s where my electricity comes from.
It’s how I know I’m everyone I’ve ever run into.
It’s how I know they compose me
And that I’m a little more me after visiting this bar in Vancouver
I can’t remember the name of.
I wish I remembered your name.