Lucy Tiven

Forever Lover

Who knew water could bruise
like that. I used to even miss you
while I was explaining the premise
of "The Doggone Girl is Mine" to my parents

or watching the ending of an in-flight film
thinking for the whole movie
that the movie was almost over. I showed Leo
the place where my leg hit the Seine

the night I jumped off the bridge.
He told me I was crazy, putting a door
in place. He said I could have died. His job
was to build new things that looked old

enough to install into old houses. The town
was so small and everything felt small
inside it. He never wanted to leave
and pointed out the North star. I shrugged, told him
it was no good to me. Both of them

love this same woman but won’t wise up
and realize she has no loyalty. I was driving past a salt flat
when you told me about the other girl you loved

and how you hurt her. I almost ruined my phone
with iced tea and it barely made it
into the passenger seat. From somewhere
there was a honk. I guess I thought
I would always be that person. It’s a funny song
if you’ve never heard it before,

but now it mostly comes on when I’m stalled
in freeway traffic, tired, not knowing what to feel.
When I heard Michael Jackson was dead
we had just made love and dust was falling

softly from the ceiling. You rolled over,
covered yourself with part of a shirt
and turned on the radio. I did not know

what to feel then either.


Songs to Sing Out of Tune

Every mattress I have assembled since
has been closer to the ceiling.

I would like to think
when we walked to the grim, Irish pub
in midtown, we were trying to go
to the MOMA. Evan hated his job
and I lost mine. He sang “I believe I can fly”
instead of the other sad one they didn’t have,
the one that goes I would give it all up.

What I want to know is this: Is R. Kelly
talking about his mother or an old girlfriend?
How much did you love me?
What was your favorite part? You know, I am fine
with asking the stupid question. Just thinking
about those days you used to talk to me.
It’s okay. My voice has no future

as a voice. I use it just to make
sure my heart tenses up
the right amount.

The things you think don’t make any difference.
A sinking feeling in the dust of the basement
room. Getting up to steal his prescription Claritin

and saying I was taking a sleeping pill.


Telling the Truth at the Time

I am good at burning bridges
and setting frail, wide nets
off the mainland. Right now, enduring beauty
seems pithy and obvious

but I never thought anyone
would call me tall, not even
for a girl. I think I may have loved you
but I just need to let it go
I said
through the phone, waiting
for the right bus, the 28 bus, faint rain

over everything. Wait one second.
Isn’t California just such
a beautiful word? I meant it.
It was from an episode of Gilmore Girls,
though. Just single moments of excruciating,
borrowed honesty. That’s all I want.

Every night, I used to tell my hobby horse
I will never love anything more than you.

Watching the felt eyes it had instead of beads.


A Foreground

I have hired a group of actors
to play my family in this poem.

I am bringing you home to them.
And Maine looks exactly like Maine.
There is a little bit of Wilderness

but not too much, your brief hands
on my shoulders

as an acknowledgement
of the situation. Funny

how one thing
always seems to come up
in front of its set
of circumstances.

And you’re right. You should let a person
be cold. You should let a person hurt so much
because people hurt such a large amount,
and almost every person
feels like more than one person

at a time. You’re right. I’m no good
at asking people to stay.


All poems by Lucy Tiven