by Sam Burke

Sometimes I turn to you while I'm sitting on my couch
and find myself just facing a pillow, that thought I had
meant to share with you is lost to a fortress of feathers,
but for a few more moments (before my practicality kicks in),
I stare at the upholstery and pattern that I know so well,
my mind still scrambling to fashion fabric into your skin.

the first time I saw you cry (the first time you ever cried?)
we were on a bus, shoulders touching, munching peanuts,
when we passed a billboard for Michael J. Fox
and caught off guard in the emotion of it all, you let slip
salt on diagonals, so I shrugged my shoulders higher
to shield you from others' eyes as cars shifted by and it began to rain.

it rained the first time we met too, me alone
and lonely in the lunch line, eyes shifting
for a spot, a safe seat to pass a few bites
of banana, when you brushed my elbow with
strong fingertips and motioned across the ocean of boisterous
limbs and fatty foods to a refuge that I couldn't swim to alone.

and when the bus finally stopped and we got off
alone, I took you into a public bathroom
and pretended it was home, plastering pictures
onto cracked yellow walls, pretending flickering lights
were angels, making muscles in the mirrors laughing
at the frailness of our physiques and how weak
we sometimes feel in those chasms between sleep
and awake, where for seconds at a time your arm hair
stands on end and your heart breaks over and over again.
Then we left, clutching our heads, me saying

take heart, find strength,
my friend.