Unclaimed County

Your presence disassembles me,
unhinges muscle and joint,
an unstrung marionette who
among others remains whole—
but cannot sleep, a blistered wound
festering back and forth across the sheets.

Your broken gifts are tossed to me—
a rind of bread, a scrap of meat,
water sweetened to nectar, drops
of soup I lick from my fingers,
food the others refuse to eat.

I spy that delicate spot behind your ear
that slips down your nape
to an unclaimed country I cannot cross,
a forbidden no-man’s land
riddled with land mines and hills of rock,
where I hear the roar of water
flooding a place I didn’t know went dry.

I have no standard to measure you by.
I dictate in my mind conversations we may have.
I pace the floor for news of you.
I replay every word we’ve spoken,
the same granular movie that flickers back and forth
as I think of the things I should have said.
You lead me to such distraction
I forget to tie my shoes.