Two Poems by CL Bledsoe

Melody of Certain Damaged Lemons

I turtled my days, a wince of light.
You come to my bed every night.
Your bloodshot eyes won’t remember
my number for long, or maybe I’m wrong.
Maybe the end will come in flames and no one
will be left to complain about how hard
it is to push air through stiff lips when all
anyone wants is to be a capybara with a never-
ending supply of lemon cheesecake. Can’t you see
that I’m dying? Your love
is like the knife scarring the tree; everyone
can see your name on me. That used to be
enough until I sobered up. But I’m not sober.
I’m your only friend, and that hurts worst of all.
I blocked your number, and I’m waiting
for you to call and tell me you saw.
The trees are muttering complaints. The wind
is unhappy with its wardrobe. So much matters
to those who don’t care at all. Everything
that you touch breaks. I wanted
to be your hands. I wanted to be the shards
on the floor.

*

Working from Home

You want to say something nice to Tim,
your coworker, who is dating five women,
but your brother just died, your ex-girlfriend
is slowly being revealed as a narcissist,
in hindsight, and when the shame spiral,
the panic attacks flare, you’re trying not
to think about the bottles of sleeping pills,
the opiates in your bathroom. Your ex-wife
says it’s PTSD. You can barely make it till 4
without mixing a drink. He messaged to say
he’s worried because the one he likes made
a joke about marriage. You say communication
is what makes a relationship strong. He says
he’s dumped two of them. The last time,
he was dating three, broke it off with two
in the same night and then the third dumped
him a week later. What makes her so nice?
you ask and he says they come from similar
backgrounds, she makes him laugh. Your ex
was the most charming person you’ve ever met.
Her attention was like a spotlight, and you got
to be a star while she shone on you. As long
as you dressed the way she wanted, didn’t say
or do the things she didn’t like. As long
as you pleased her, every moment, and didn’t let
her grow bored. When things would finally start
to feel safe, she’d complain of it being stagnant.
When you finally felt something close to loved,
she’d say she needed space. Tim says this woman
likes him maybe too much. I’m great but not that
great, he says. You’re aight, you say. Your ex
told you the kindest things anyone has ever told
you after she destroyed you one morning. You’d
driven home, shaking and crying while she chatted
on the phone about her plans for the day, and after
your emergency therapy session, you told her
your therapist said you should stick it out (but have
an exit strategy), she was shocked. Were you
thinking about breaking up? she asked. You’ve
forgotten all those kind things, but you’ll never
forget that morning, in the hotel, your joy, your love
forever evaporating. You never really loved me,
she said the last time she called. You just wanted
to be saved, which is exactly what she wanted.
Tim bought a house and is learning how paint
works, the difference between wet and dry shades.
Your ex calls drunk saying how lonely she is,
and when you start to say sweetheart, she says no.
You don’t get to call me that anymore. She says stop
loving me so we can be friends. No one else
could ever want you, you know. Not like that spotlight.
That’s part of what she taught you in the hotel,
and every day you were together and every day
since. Your sister calls to say she’s been crying
for days about your brother and you say what
I wouldn’t give to be able to cry. You say my brother
died, too. Tim has been getting sloppy drunk at work
since we’ve been working from home. His seasonal
depression. What you wouldn’t give for yours
to only happen in the winter. You drink most
days but don’t make mistakes. The wisdom
of age. You don’t get to see your daughter
as much now, so you’re adrift. Your ex talked
about children when she was sloppy drunk.
What a shitshow that would’ve been, but you
would’ve done it. You’re young, you want
to tell Tim. Life will get so much harder. But
maybe it won’t, for him. He’s good looking.
He’s confident. She would take your arm
and walk beside you to the movie theater,
to dinner. All your life, you’ve just wanted
someone to love. Ever since your mother died.
What a cliché. You have so much love
to give, a friend once told you. It feels good
to talk about this stuff, Tim says. Is there anything
I can help you with? No, you say. But thank
you. Just take care of yourself.

*

Raised on a rice and catfish farm in eastern Arkansas, CL Bledsoe is the author of more than twenty-five books, including the poetry collections Riceland, Trashcans in Love, Grief Bacon, and his newest, The Bottle Episode, as well as his latest novels Goodbye, Mr. Lonely and The Saviors. Bledsoe co-writes the humor blog How to Even, with Michael Gushue located here: https://medium.com/@howtoeven His own blog, Not Another TV Dad, is located here: https://medium.com/@clbledsoe He’s been published in hundreds of journals, newspapers, and websites that you’ve probably never heard of. Bledsoe lives in northern Virginia with his daughter.

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