catch & release

you sleep facing away from me, eyes pointed
out at the rain, and i don’t know how to spit it out:
that the best part of my day is the waking.
it’s never cold anymore, never a startling ceiling.
it’s you, mumbling with sleep. you in the shower,
water in your teeth, blinding under bathroom lights.
you, brushing your hair, static glittery in the mirror,
lighting forest fires in the sink.

it’s catch and release, and every morning i practice
clenching and unclenching my fist. you come home
at odd hours, smelling of other people,
and i loosen my grip around you, wandering to the window.
hand on the glass, i focus on the rain instead.

it doesn’t surprise me the day you leave; i never felt
like you were mine. you were always nomadic,
slick in my fingers, out of my grasp. before you go,
you kiss my forehead, and then i am a bird,
watching your car shrink on the interstate.
you wind and wind, dowsed by a summer storm,
smooth and watery. at night, you fall asleep
under peach-stained skies.

one of these days, you will call from a payphone
and it will spill from between my teeth, gushing.
i will say: it was more, those mornings in the kitchen,
that daybreak delirium. now you are lost, gazing up at
constellations, and if you ever miss the feeling
of coming home at night, i will make up the bed,
stock the shelves with your cereal, kiss you on the cheek
in the doorway. hit the gas, i’ll say, but don’t stray too far.

Zoe Cunniffe is a poet and singer-songwriter from Washington, DC. She has previously been published in literary journals such as Velvet Fields, Trouvaille Review, Meniscus and The Showbear Family Circus, and she can be found on Instagram at @there.are.stillbeautifulthings.

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