clean sheets in january

my clean sheets, baptised,
stale and clawed by the january frost,
draping like a helium balloon days after
the party lights have dimmed.
my pillowcase smells not of breathless kisses, my
duvet tangled not by wrestling feet. the unknowable
warmth of the friction between our skin—its promise
leaks into the atmosphere with winter mist that clears.
we share nightmares

through a screen, but tuck the glow of our dreams,
tenderly, in the gaze we share when our foreheads touch. my father
once compared flower petals to hands held,
and i see it now in our alternating fingers—yours, mine,
yours then mine, yours, mine, and yours—
locked together by thumbs tracing
alphabets we have yet to teach each other.
it was nice having something to lose and something to learn.

where were our hands before we knew to
hold them this way, before we ever met?
yours, embossed by maroon grains of the track that paved your glory.
mine, coughing up another polite email that wishes well weekends.
yours, gripping a steering wheel when you drove away from a girl you loved and
mine, down my throat after a wednesday night i don’t remember.
that they found each other was a miracle, dearest,

despite the episodes unwatched, the skyline
dinners uneaten, your cheeky dog not walked. i stroke
the pixels of your cheek, the same one i kissed good night for the last time while
shredding any residue of logic. my parched lips are drained of their
rosy tint you so loved, scaly under the desert moonshine. its
cold nights tell me i should have lingered

on your chest a little longer—now i only get warmth from the sun,
its rays a faint gleam next to the beams of your smile. the one
we joked would make you a qualified dentist. we joked about the freefall too,
wagering flights and fragments, because we needed humour to forget how were always teetering
on the edge of something, darling,

like beggars dreaming of manhattan lofts,

and my mistake was simple.
the mountains i begged to make me feel small—
i never asked to make me happy. 

For as long as I write

We existed there—roving through time like the
party boats adrift, whimpering away their last song.
Rooted against every instinct, we stubbornly are,
though even the river shivers under the 
midnight blue skin of space.
I have stranded reason in the daylight, 
forgetting how the moon’s crescent cradles
my secrets, nearly tipping them in your ear.

Courting this memory like a fool—
a dream that evaporates upon waking, 
fraying more at the seams with every 
attempt at recollection. In a better world,
I would transform into portal of truth,
mapping the blueprints of this night
in every way but the fabled fashion I desire.

Would I still remember your gaze, 
so arresting that it confounds mine?
A fugitive, I leap from the cathedral to the city’s eye, 
then melt with the amber strokes under Blackfriars.
Could I still let you draw my hair back to
pick a misery, one that beckons softly
and glistens tenderly, eager to trust
like a lily from the earth?

As credulous as Gloucester, my fictions
a solvent for my facts. The walls with which
you say I banish you keep my brimming inkwells 
as still as the discontent of winter, yet
they remain as leaden as the Thames below,
Because when you say things like 
“The city was mine like never before”,
I can’t help but raise my quill,

and I am a lover for as long as I write.