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untitled by Rachel McKibbens


Of course I was afraid to love. Haven’t you seen what it does to someone, how it breaks you open like fruit, soft fingers digging into flesh. How you get undone—that terrible nakedness.

I think about this body that houses my self, and what it has gone through in order to remain standing. All the gods and wolves that kicked down the door in a stampede, demanding I live with the language of being here.

Of course I am rarely prepared for anything. I worry about it, you know. How terrible I am at deciphering what something means as it happens. How inadequate I feel explaining things to myself: why someone has to die, why I have to keep living, why any amount of gentleness makes my heart full, why I feel empty some mornings when being human is the worst thing I can be.

How do you ask forgiveness for the self you used to be. How do you say, I forgive you, my love, while staring at the mirror.

What have I done in this universe which lead me to your mouth, whispering in the dark, saying, I have you.

Of course it took what it took to get here. I was afraid to live and to love. But I did it anyway. My god, I did it anyway.

*      *      *
Rachel McKibbens

To my daughters I need to say:

Go with the one who loves you biblically.
The one whose love lifts its head to you

despite its broken neck. Whose body
bursts sixteen arms electric

to carry you, gentle
the way old grief is gentle.

Love the love that is messy
in all its too much. The body

that rides best your body, whose mouth
saddles the naked salt of your far-gone hips,

whose tongue translates the rock language
of all your elegant scars.

Go with the one who cries out for her
tragic sisters as she chops the winter’s wood,

the one whose skin triggers your heart
into a heaven of blood waltzes.

Go with the one who resembles most your father.
Not the father you can point out on a map,

but the father who is here, is your home,
is the key to your front door.

Know that your first love will only be the first,
& the second & third & even fourth

will unprepare you for the most important:
The Blessed. The Beast. The Last Love

which is, of course, the most terrifying kind.
Because which of us wants to go with what

can murder us? Can reveal to us our true heart’s
end & its thirty years spent in poverty?
Can mimic the sound of our bird-throated
mothers, replicate the warmth of our brothers’

tempers, can pull us out of ourselves until we are
no longer sisters or daughters or sword swallowers

but instead women who give & lead & take & want
& want
& want
& want

because there is no shame in wanting, & you will
hear yourself say: Last Love, I wish to die

so I may come back to you new & never tasted
by any other mouth but yours & I want to be the hands

that pull your children out of you & tuck them
deep inside myself until they are ready to be

the children of such a royal & staggering love.
Or you will say: Last Love, I am old, & I have

spent myself on the courageless, have wasted
too many clocks on the less-deserving, so I hurl

myself at the throne of you & lie humbly
at your feet. Last Love, let me never

roll out of this heavy dream of you, let the day
I was born mean my life will end where you end

let the man behind the church do what he did
if it brings me to you. Let the girls in the

locker room corner me again if it brings me
to you. Let this wild depression throw me beneath

its hooves if it brings me to you. Let me pronounce
my hoarded joy if it brings me to you.

Let my father break me again & again if it
brings me to you.

Last love, I have let other men borrow your children.
Forgive me.

Last love, I once vowed my heart to another.
Forgive me.

Last Love, I have let my blind & anxious hands
wander into a room & come out empty.

Forgive me. Last Love, I have cursed the women
you loved before me. Forgive me.

Last Love, I envy your mother’s body
where you resided first. Forgive me.

Last Love, I am all that is left. Forgive me.
I did not see you coming. Forgive me.

Last Love, every day without you was a life
I crawled out of. Amen.

Last Love, you are my Last Love. Amen.
Last Love, I am all that is left. Amen.

I am all that is left.

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This poem appeared in blud by Rachel McKibbens, published by Copper Canyon Press, 2017. Shared here with profound gratitude.

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Comments (2)

  • I can hear ‘ yes’ echoing to every corner of the cave


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