Those tiny tragedies that accumulate
overnight on your skin, bruises embossed,
scabs you don’t remember hurting
he collects them, you know.
The commas you always neglect to put,
the ellipse that extends a thought
unnecessarily, a parenthesis you left without
he tends them like flowers.
The runs in your stockings.
That bra with one hook missing.
Here you are from three years ago,
anticipating stretch marks and love.
Here you are in pigtails,
surrounded by balloons and rain.
Where you are now, he has yet to gather.
He has parts of you
from before you knew him.
He saves what you leave,
takes what you have forgotten.
How can he not watch over them?
You always tell yourself to be careful,
but the stains of sleep on your pillow
describe a map he can follow.
The first line was a gift. The rest were skirmishes, me against the editor in my mind. It was a battle stretched over a year, fought on paper and keyboard, with the combatants taking long, long rests in between. I am afraid, sometimes, that Scrupulous Editor will take down Bravely Trying Writer like the Undertaker versus Innocent Bystander.
I resort to tricks. I scribble a line or two in a notebook, then key in more lines using the Notes app in my phone, then go back to Journler to write more, then back to the notebook. That way I have different versions existing simultaneously, with no chance of spontaneous combustion upon accidental meeting.
The Collector appeared in Pen & Ink in 1997. I was surprised to find I still had the book.