Elizabeth (Excerpts) by M. Keener

McKinley Keener is an undergrad Writing major at Pratt Institute. My work has appeared in Juked, Poetry Quarterly, and One Sentence Poems.

Elizabeth, Part I

the night before

I stay awake
fighting thoughts
of you
like dragons
I stay awake to
count the freckles aligned
on legs
of your
dresser—do you
love me in a way
that is
different than
threatening to
exhales of
the wet drippings
of a

Elizabeth, Part II

Are you in love?
No, not right now. Have you
ever been in love? Yes, once.
How did you know it was love?
Because I wanted to destroy him completely
just to see what was inside.
That doesn’t sound like love to me. All
loves are different. Why?
Because all people are different.
Is that a bad thing? You decide.
I have decided to stop waiting
for a love that doesn’t exist.
Or so you tell yourself.

Would it make a difference
if he knew I loved him hopelessly?
No, it wouldn’t, it would
still be hopeless. Should I tell him?
You won’t like the response. Why not?
He will say thank you and that he is flattered
and that he hopes you can still be friends.
And your heart will ache unreasonably
for something that was never yours.
You sound like you’re speaking
from experience. Maybe I am.
With whom? It’s not important.
What happened?
Nothing. That’s the point.

Were you in love with him for a long time?
Long enough. Long enough for what?
To grow tired of pining. For him? Yes,
of course. When did you stop?
I never said that I did. But I thought you
weren’t in love right now. This is different.
This is another beast.
Does this hurt worse than love?
Yes, of course.

Why do you keep pining for him even though you’re tired of it?
What makes you think I have a choice?

Did you ever think that maybe he
might love you back? Sometimes.
Why? He would look at me, and his eyes
would crinkle into crescent moons. I guess
they don’t anymore. I wouldn’t know.
When was the last time you saw him?
I don’t know if I’ve ever seen him.
What does that mean?
You’re asking about him, not
my version of him. Is there a difference?
At this point, yes.

What made you fall in love with him?
The way he holds his hands
like loose ropes at his sides
instead of reaching out. Your love for him
is quite strange. All loves are different.
Right. Right. I think I love him
like people loved the Loch Ness Monster,
with the same kind of curious fear
that turned her into a legend.
He is not a legend.
Do not immortalize someone who
will inevitably vanish. But isn’t love
a form of immortalization? Exactly.
Is pining? Probably.
Will we all live forever, then?
Certainly not.

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