*This poem was published in the 2011 issue of Rock Paper Scissors. The poem was inspired by David Ignatow’s “Rescue the Dead.”
Choosing Not to Love
To love is to walk in the cold
north wind without a coat,
to trust the resilience of skin
naked and reddened, to pretend
it is fur or fish scales or armor.
It is to walk in the streets at night
hands and body open, eyes
looking up. It is to follow
the stranger down the unknown
path with only bright oranges
in your pockets.
Not to love is to have furniture
and locks, a heavy ring of keys,
a savings account, a series of routines
and hasty signatures, brief
moments of silence. It is to stare at
the beautiful stranger in the cereal
aisle, to notice his naked
finger, until his eyes raise, see
you considering an alternative, then
your quick denial—a turned head
and hands in pockets full of lint.