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"A Woman and Multitudes" by Olivia Buntaine

"I even love the way you never finish any drink,"

my girlfriend says

"always leaving one or two untasted sips"

clearly referring, I could tell,

to my habits with relationships

I do have a habit for unfinished stories

and books and poems and drinks and plates of food

and its more than a habit, its a hankering

she says this

because we are in love.

And this complicated for me.

Because I walk through the world seeing nothing

but pulsing golden strings that could tie me

to everyone I meet

and mourning the webs I don’t get to weave

caught in imaginings of hearts I didn’t get to see

Because for some insane reason

when i was thirteen

I believed what Walt Whitman told me

that I contained multitudes

(or he did, whatever)

and maybe I shouldn’t have believed him

Maybe I should have spent more time

with Emily Dickinson

Expecting no one to know my soul

unraveling myself in my own secret world

but I am in love with many things, not just people

and this is complicated for me, so I speak

but mostly, in this stretching moment,

I am in love with her

and the ways she holds me

like a thought she can’t unthink

this scares me

She tells me we should get tattoos

and I immediately think

How will I explain this to

some man I’ll end up with:

sorry, honey,

this is for a girl who I will probably always love

more than you

He wouldn’t understand

and neither does she

And neither do I most of the time

my multitude of anxieties don't keep me safe

they hold me hostage from what I am meant to feel

but I was taught to write what I know

and what I know is this divided, fractured self

Whitman’s multitudes

that fuckboy of american poetry

taught me to take up more space

than can often be afforded to me

and I think, Walt, that multitudes feel different for a woman

so here I am

wishing Ophelia had left a note

wishing Emily had told me why she wouldn’t have had

the world hear her speak

wishing there was some woman I could follow, I could pray to,

who embraced and demanded space for her complexities

who, following that, didn’t get burned in effigy

There are times that I feel

very very alone

I know many people do

so I retreat to the narcissism of a slam poet

and the intricate reflections of a sad and longing poem

because a bad poem is like a funhouse for its author

and a good one is like a warm coat that fits anyone

that holds you and reminds you what space you do take up

and keeps safe whats inside

and so many people have gone without good coats

for so long

far longer than i

and I never understood why I should reach for my own

oxygen mask before helping my child but

maybe we are meant to stay alive to take care of the ones

who are too busy dreaming to breathe like we do

So I will put on my coat and try to help you with yours

and I will reach for my oxygen

while the ones who still have the strength to inspire breathe in a way

I do not know how

I am in love

and it has been complicated since I was thirteen

when I fell in love with both

Walt Whitman

and Emily Dickinson.

and my heart feels so tired to be 22

I do not know if I am grappling in the dark for my own oxygen mask

or if some safe person is finding it for me but

I hope it comes soon

I am beginning to feel lightheaded



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