by Jessica Swanson
You know, I don’t even care if they charge me extra
to bring my Congrats on your divorce, I’ve secretly always loved you cake
to your garden party as a preemptive measure—
much like a lightning strike or asking the dermatologist
to cauterize every little freckle that could slightly resemble a beauty mark.
(And even if legend holds that moles are just placeholders for kisses
from lovers in past lives—on your bare shoulder,
along the slope of bone rising just above your left hip,
right on the vein that feeds from your left hand into your left wrist—
I’ve been a stray cat stumbling from car to car at a border rest stop,
wasted all my extra lives searching for little scraps of you.)
I know you never gave much thought to what happens
to wedding doves post-ceremony.
Supposedly, they know enough to make it home,
but most never do.
They get eaten or hit.
Fail at adapting to their new, wild lives.
Someone shoots one on accident pulling for skeet.
Sometimes, home is just too far away, and they’ve forgotten the course.
Or their wings just give out halfway.
And they plummet.
(Endlessly, I bet, in cadence with songs
from a curated playlist for the happy couple.)
And you know cherry syrup looks like blood on everyone’s lips
(especially yours—heartbreak’s always been a good color on you)
and I only came because I heard the news.
Just a few years too late, but I heard.
I only came because you’re some semblance of what I’d call home
and I thought you’d leave a door open.
I thought you might do me the honor of inviting me in.
What I mean to say (when no one’s looking, and the tea lights have all burned low)—
What I mean is: Sorry I didn’t stay to watch you do things right the first time around.
Sorry I’m late.
Time’s got a way of sneaking up on all of us. And eventually, eventually.
Save a slice of cake for me, maybe:
a sliver of Congrats or always loved you.
A sliver of me has always loved you and hopes you always will
even as the wasps crawl the tablecloth for a better look at the fondant
after all the guests have gone.
And it’s just you there with your head in your hands.
And it’s just me, watching hopelessly from beyond the iron gate.
Where do I begin?
Jessica Swanson (she/her) is a librarian and a writer. She lives somewhere along Florida’s Nature Coast with her dog, Lily. She has a fondness for cats, cheese, and hot tea. Her work has appeared in or is forthcoming from The Hog Literary Magazine, Moth Eaten Mag, Dog Teeth Lit and others. Follow her on X/Twitter at Cooljazsheepie or Instagram at everystupidstar.