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A Poem about Ghosts and Boyfriends and Bukowski

It’s like a ghost story
my boyfriend says about myself about the way I talk about myself
in hushed names and drawn up knees and the memory
of a boy who used to carry the same title as him
who broke a glass against my kitchen floor that shattered
the way his fingers did against the side of my face once
My hands shutter together, bruised skin and skinned knees
and the taste of lipstick and blood on my lips
sweet pain, bitter soft
Love is a Dog from Hell by Charles Bukowski
is open in my lap My boyfriend says he sexist
he’s never read a word by him but for the ones
I say out loud my hands stained with the weight
of the pages my lips pressed together, glue,
the familiar taste of him that still hums on the inside of my teeth
I’m reading my favorite one and he laughs when I say the word mad
And I think that love is madness
I think every time I hear someone talk about
love it feels like I’m hearing it for the first time
Love is madness! I’ll laugh and pull my hands together
and feel like I didn’t know that already
Like I didn’t know that until this moment
Even now I feel like I’m relearning something
Maybe I talk about love like it’s a ghost story too because I don’t quite believe it
When I remember the boy who used to carry his title I picture us all
as phantoms and bloodied palms and glass, under the floorboards digging into our feet
And I thought I stopped loving him then after he broke that glass but
I only starting hating and maybe that’s the same
thing and I look at my boyfriend and see
that there’s a smear of my lipstick against the side
of his face it almost looks like a bruised cheek
It’s from my lips but I imagine it warped and done like finger painting
I start crying because I’m scared because it feels
like I’m delicate again A child held to dread
around a campfire A match held to my face his hand in it’s tow
I tell my boyfriend I’m going to leave him because
he’s possessed His face doesn’t look like his anymore
I tell him it’s not his fault because I know it isn’t
We’re cradled around an empty fire pit the book is shut in my lap
sharp presses the side of my lip, there’s blood
on the inside of my cheek
Bukowki said against the rim of alcohol and the corner of a cigarette
that agony never leaves it just changes and maybe that’s what
love does too. It never leaves anyone
I swallow the warm against my lips, force it to the ache in my stomach
My boyfriend asks me not to leave him
I take his hands that felt like his
I try to force myself to see his face to see my own lipstick
Beg me I begged

Priya Ele is a New York based writer. She studies dramatic writing at New York University and has work in HAD, Rejection Letters, Maudlin House, and Pidgeonholes among others. You can find her on twitter @priyaeler

One response to “A Poem about Ghosts and Boyfriends and Bukowski”

  1. Spring Avatar

    Can I just write ‘like’ in a literary magazine?

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