When You’re Done Reading This, I’ll Show You the Real Poem – by Traci McMickle

You had a photo of a woman
wearing nothing but sepia,
a latched wooden door
where the glass should be.

It hung in your bathroom. And me,
a closet full of nothing but costumes.

I lit a candle for you in Notre Dame.
Not because I believed or because you did.
Because you were the only person
I cared to pretend for.

I thought of you later
when I saw the man, his toddler
riding his handcart, sneakered
feet on a crate of wine.

Weddings have rehearsals,
all but admitting marriage is theatre.

Me dancing with my grandfather,
him still alive and my arms bare of tattoos,
his face already ruched with age.

You said I cook because it’s mine, not
something inherited. I have mom’s hands,
but the bend of my fingers
as I juice a lime belongs to me.

I dream about you in real time,
carving my name into a desk,
a blur of smoke through your hair.
I still expect flannel to smell like cigarettes.

Traci McMickleTraci McMickle (she/her/hers) is a bi/pan/queer poet from Montana, where she lives with a spouse and an incorrigible Rottweiler. Traci has an MFA from the University of New Orleans. Her work is published or forthcoming in Coastal Shelf, New Feathers Anthology, Chaotic Merge Magazine, and Crow Name.