POETRY

WRITING ON THE WALL

When you were young, your soul was saltwater on your forearms. Inky wrists. Scabbed knees. You forgot how your father shut his door, how your mother opened hers. Each cloud peppered with sunlight. Every year swayed into sea wind. You believed in love. Love is, love is a fast car flooded in music, an exposed spine, dry heaving, a goodbye said tomorrow afternoon. Love slipped over suburbia—arguments of bored siblings, wanderlust, juggling over pale streets. It dripped softly like rain. You watched summers pass easy. And below your bedroom carpet you heard your mother and father’s whispers. You gazed at the ceiling, washing ashore a canvas. Listening carefully to tremors in the arrested white, a thrum in your heart became falsetto in your throat. You ran straight into your backyard. The surface of the sky flexed, stars velveting. Don’t let the island crawl over you, you wished, but don’t let it swim away. That was when you waited for your father’s long night to pass. When you watched your mother watch him. Your childhood bedroom walls wrote themselves a message, something learned after you left. Love feels like a place you live in. When you were young, you nicked your ankles with tree bark, climbing to catch rain. Your soul was swallowed sky, to digest under dredges of love. Under sagging organs that pumped thunder, love spoke louder. Will she still know you? How to best articulate your wish? When to give away your fear? Remind yourself not to forget—don’t hurt, don’t hurt, don’t hurt—until it’s done. The heavy weights you’d carried sold you strength to run longer, to shout further, to keep your lonely closer. You wrote Fall Away on your flesh. To keep and let go. To keep. To soothe and stop. To show. When love scoured the summertime sky, you watched it take everything everywhere. It went wherever light painted pavements below.

Jonathan Koven is a Philly-based writer from Long Island, NY. He holds a BA from American University, works as a technical writer, and is Toho Journal’s head fiction editor. Also featured in Iris Literary, Night Picnic, Gravitas, and more. His debut poetry collection "Palm Lines" is now available. Instagram: @jonathankoven.