Revisiting Love

I don’t know if love was the easiest thing to write about when I was younger, but it was a common theme in a lot of my older poetry. The memory of stolen forehead kisses and the anxiousness of that first handhold with awkward childhood grace. I was always in love. My heart ached for romance, holding fast to the belief that those gastric butterflies were not just real, but necessary for teenage survival.

Here is an all-too-sweet poem from that age about L O V E. And then, of course, the rewrite.

My Love by 14-year-old Alexa

My love is in the darkness
With stars glittering bright.
My love is in the darkness
As I love you through the night.

My love is in the roses,
As red as red can be.
My love is in the roses
Will you find that love for me?

My love is in a poem,
As long as love will last.
My love is in a poem
With my heart still beating fast.

My love is in a song,
As lovely as time will trace.
My love is in a song
Being sung for your embrace.

My love is in the ocean
Where a million miles spread.
My love is in the ocean
On its seashell covered bed.

My love is in a lover’s heart,
Who knows my deepest fears.
My love is in a lover’s heart,
Who sheds with all my tears.

Love Stinks by 27-year-old Alexa

His love is an uncomfortable hug—

the embrace of an aunt your mom swears you met
when you were four or five,
and don’t you remember, sweetie?

The answer is always no.

Or that friend from high school
you tried to reconnect with
said you’d definitely keep in touch with
and then let them fade away into the depths
of the abyss that is pre-college memory
because both of you meant
that by keeping in touch you were really trying to say,
I would like never to experience these feelings of awkwardness again.

But we were talking about him.
That guy.
The one who made the world so easy to understand for so long.
The one you wanted to marry.
The one you can’t even hug.

You see, he has a smell—
a nauseating stench so malodorous
you’d wish you were anosmic.

But my nose is at peak sniff
one whiff
the culmination of odors from our pre-awkward,
my pre-anger
his pre-gret.

I inhaled the other beds, trapped subtly in the oils of his hair
of the lies, sunken into the crevices of acne gone popped and scabbed over
of the loss of love, buried in the neck,
the subtle scent of lavender and drug store deodorant spray.

He smells of bathrooms of houses I’ve never seen,
of moments he felt unclean,
of cigarettes and guilt.

He smells of me.
Even now he smells of me.

And when I walk away from the hug
release my face from the confines of the collar of his shirt
the stink of him still lingers…
stronger still than any new perfume.

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