It happened in the desert of New Mexico.
I was 13. He was 15, serious, and foreign.
For six years we wrote,
revealing ourselves on sky-blue breaths.
I read and reread his words,
folded and refolded them,
looking for hidden layers of meaning
until the papery fragments of our hearts
were held together by just single cells
of the onions we had peeled away
as we grew up together.
I had fallen in love for the first time,
Finally reunited, I willingly bared my body
as I had innocently bared my heart.
from the outer reaches of the Universe,
the next morning
I hit the worn oak floor
of my single room plus kitchen and bath
when he retreated to the couch
where he remained
for six more weeks as I cried
alone each night in a double bed.
But still, I wanted to fall in love,
In falling I had made him my center.
the spokes of my limbs, mind, spirit, and heart
had no hub to repair themselves to.
Only a hole of nothingness remained
where I’d long ago abandoned myself
and he no longer was.
A few years later I fell again, and then again.
Each time I fell and crashed
the spokes were more twisted
and the hub of nothingness grew.
No, I do not want to fall in love,
The sensation of falling
has always turned my stomach.
In the third grade
I backed down the ladder,
enduring snickering jabs,
rather than jump from the high dive
at the public pool.
Yet in love, I fell, and fell again
because I trust the validity of words
and believed that’s what one had to do
to feel love’s fullness and joy.
It’s been twenty years since I last fell in love
and I never will again.
The last time was once again a fall
into a whirlpool of false pedestals.
In vertiginous terror my disembodied heart
plummeted through air
without the compass of my gut,
the rudder of my mind,
or the sails of my spirit.
Slowing only slightly when it hit the water,
I let it sink for a dozen years
deeper into airless darkness
where I nearly drowned.
But I’ve never turned my back on love,
and I never will.
I now face it as a falcon
with trusted wings,
and an open, resilient heart.
I can fly and hunt and build a nest alone,
but I welcome and prefer
the care and gifts of my beloved
and choose to join him
where the wind meets the cliffs
above the blushing, sun-kissed earth.
There, I spread my wings and with him
rise in love, and soar.