i want to be friends but i’ve touched your boobs (and other things): a (prose) poem on how to be aggressively platonic

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i) in spite of your perfect hair and the shy dimple under your left cheek i wonder if i should have put my arm around you that night because when i think of you i only want to see the way your mouth goes bright as you tell me the names of the fish skipping across the water and the way your fingers make knots in rope so easy like every simple piece of string could coil into complexity but then i remember your bright mouth on mine and the ocean roaring inside me and how you knotted our fingers together so tight so close so we wouldn’t drift apart

ii) my stride is small my voice is smaller would you hear me if i shouted across the fields over the mountains through bamboo forests clicking in the wind would you see me running with thread and needle trying to stitch our islands together

iii) these things take time i tell myself i need space you say when i breathe my lungs inflate with salt and sky there is endless seaglass inside me rolled smooth but sometimes i must dive to cold depths to see even a glimmer of a sunken star i am breaking my hands on time and space and maybe this was a mistake

iv) the thread is red i see it out the corner of my eyes but when i look too hard it vanishes and it isn’t joy i feel but i tell myself it will be

v) most people grew vocabularies for this much younger than i, learned to put out fires, learned the language of storms, learned to suture open wounds tenderly as not to leave scars and now i flounder in the shallows, water kissing the backs of my knees but drowning would be simpler than this oh drowning would be simpler

vi) so i drown. i let the you the me the us the shallow the deep the wave after wave after waving you away at the station that one afternoon drown me. i drown in remembering limbs and fingers and hands and eyes and how you said what you did in tongues i did not know tongues i got to know tongues i have come to miss and down, deep down, i start to forget.

vii) i breathe again, coming up to the surface, knots in my hair – no matter, they’ll be gone with the next haircut, drastic measures for drastic issues – and look around. the sky is gone, fallen into the ground somewhere somewhen, as i looked for you through the sheen the surf the direction of the current swirling around my thighs my knees my ankles as I step out, slowly, back to land back to safety back to me. but i look back, just once just one more time, one more look

viii) (one day i will look and there will be nothing in the way of a different you)

ix) I look up from the screen. Have I been gone that long? I mean, no one is an island, but I seem to be running on my own timezone sometimes. That long? I look up to the clock above the screen. That long. I look back down. You have replied a number of times, I’m the one ignoring you this time. I do need space. We both did. Time is not the issue, of course. Space, strangely enough, is. Even confined within the green and blue walls of a text, space is an issue. We keep pushing at each other, waiting for something to give, again, despite what we said. Afraid to be pulled in again. I know I am.

x) Define. Synonyms. Thesaurus.com. Rhymezone. How to. How to find the words. How to lose weight in a week! How to tell someone they’re adopted. How to tell someone that it’s complicated but you want to see them but not in that way but also you do. How to tell someone you’re pregnant. How to video exclusive. How to go about starting the conversation. How to lose friends and alienate people and befriend aliens. How to tell you.

Collaboration with Emily Chou

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