by Sarah Kay
The first love of my life never saw me naked.
There was always a parent coming home in a half hour,
always a little brother in the next room, always too much
body and not enough time for me to show him.
Instead, I gave him a shoulder, an elbow, the bend
of my knee. I lent him my corners, my edges:
the parts of me I could afford to offer, the parts of me
I had long since given up trying to hide.
He never asked for more. He gave me back his eyelashes,
the back of his neck, his palms. We held each piece we were given
like it was a nectarine—might bruise if we weren’t careful—
we collected them like we were trying to build an orchard.
And the spaces that he never saw: the ones my parents
had labeled “Private Parts” when I was still small enough
to fit all of my self and worries inside a bathtub,
I made up for them by handing over all the private parts of me.
There was no secret I did not tell him,
there was no moment we did not share.
We did not grow up, we grew in: like ivy wrapping,
molding each other into perfect yings and yangs.
We kissed with mouths open, breathing his exhale
into my inhale and back. We could have survived
underwater or in outer space, living only off the breath
we traded. We spelled “love” G-I-V-E.
I never wanted to hide my body from him.
If I could have, I am sure I would have given it all away
with the rest of me. I did not know it was possible
to keep some things for myself.
Some nights, I wake up knowing he is anxious.
He is across the world in another woman’s arms
and the years have spread us like dandelion seeds,
sanding down the edges of our jigsaw parts that used to only fit each other.
He drinks from the pitcher on the night stand, checks
the digital clock, it is five AM. He tosses in sheets and
tries to settle. I wait for him to sleep, before tucking myself
into elbows and knees; reaching for things I have long since given away.
SARAH KAY is a poet from New York City who has been performing her spoken word poetry since she was fourteen years old. She is perhaps best known for her talk at the 2011 TED conference, which garnered two standing ovations and has been seen over three million times online. Sarah holds a Masters Degree in The Art of Teaching from Brown University and an Honorary Doctorate in Humane Letters from Grinnell College. Her first book, B was ranked #1 Poetry Book on Amazon. Her second book, No Matter the Wreckage is available from Write Bloody Publishing. Sarah is the founder of Project VOICE, an organization that uses spoken word poetry to encourage people to engage in creative self-expression in schools and communities around the world. For more, see: www.kaysarahsera.com