Permission by Seema Reza

after David Sullivan

Protect others from the mist of sorrow that settles over you in the night.
Bury the quiver in your voice, hold your head high, do not bow
though you were taught to.

Write the poem about your fears:
your mother’s breath stilling, your sons’ faces
turning blue—or bearded—the inescapable imminence
of someone you can’t bear losing disappearing into memory

Then write a poem about the fact
that you’ve never been faithful to anyone,
have always kept one hand feeling along the walls
for a knob, a hinge, a latch
to release the pressure in the chamber

Let favorite songs be readdressed to new lovers,
allow the same lyrics to offer a familiar glimmer
play the same notes and hope for different endings again and again

You can be the only one to laugh at your jokes
turn the volume up to obscure the silence
have an apple and a sleeping pill for dinner on Wednesday
look at the sun through a kaleidoscope while your inbox fills

You can say no to people you like, take only what you want
do things your mother’s way though you swore you never would or
allow the laundry to pile up and serve a breakfast of leftover dessert
smile at babies without yearning to press their plump cheeks to yours

You can cry about one thing when you are sad about another,
allow a man who cannot solve your loneliness to hold you
his thick fingers cradling your skull, his smell entangled in your hair
even after you break free



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