to you // a reply

/ Kita Barrientos (Writer), Kevin Phan (Illustrator)

Poetry3 min reading time

No. 5

part I. to you

The sunset is beautiful tonight, my dear. Hanging clouds sprayed with the riches of orange and the brilliance of pink. And your favorite of course, that bottomless purple that stretches into the twilight. There’s a small breeze on this summer eve, just enough to make you breathe in a little deeper. Just enough to make you remember that you don’t actually hate this season. To you, these nights are like a melancholic memory of a place you’ve never been and a person you never were. To me, these nights are ours. In the backyard graced with a painter’s stroke of petals and tilled soil and ripened fruit dropped in bounty from flourishing branches. I made this. In the high noons, with the knees of my torn up jeans a palette of moss and earthy inks and my head sweating under a hat that strains beneath layers of duct tape. I planted sweet peas and irises and mums. I don’t care if colors match. I want a clashing kaleidoscope of blossoming life every time I look out the window. I placed these stones beneath my feet, these burnished steps that lead one by one to the well at the edge of this striking summerscape. Perched upon the brim, a soft melody leaves my lips. Like Orpheus to his love, I sing for us.

Illustration of a beige background bordered by a few vines, flowers, a hand, and abstract shapes resembling nature.

part II. a reply

i got your message

you could not have left it in a more obvious place

but even then, it arrived a stranger, a withering shape hazing through layers of anesthesia;
a sudden amnesia held together with the sap of rotting fruit and sun-stained duct tape

instead of irises and mums, i learned to love the fungus and the damp, smearing my shins and fingernails are pulped petals and the ink from poems i’ll never write
i did not place these stones above my head, but the moss that nestles between them proves that life still grows where the sunset does not reach

in a fleeting moment of glistening clarity reflected through whiskey amber, you threw yourself against this crumbling well and sang into its tapering depths

as with every echo, your verse faltered on the way down

i don’t recognize it all, just bits and pieces of a tune that fractures and lands like shards about my feet

i pick them up and the blood from my fingers feels warm like your embrace, swathed in that forgiving summer night

from these sanguine pieces, i create a mosaic embedded in the mud—a half-made kaleidoscope of your song

read like a worn artifact, shakily unearthed, it sounds something like this:

“a poem I once wrote to myself,
on a night gentler than this,
knowing that even with the passage of time, my changing self would not alter beyond my reach,
knowing that eventually I would meet myself again
and when that person could not give themselves grace,
I would give it to them.”

in the same time it took for orpheus to turn around, you disappear and fall like eurydice back to the darkened recesses of my faltering memory

i lift my misting eyes to the window of sky above me and watch as the silhouette of evening clouds pass beyond these high walls.

i hope, in time, you’ll forgive me.