He called it an isolated incident, promised you
that it would never happen again. It was one
time, he said, one time. But one plus one equals
two, and two plus one equals three, and you use
your fingers to keep track of eight, nine, ten,
until you can no longer remember; until you
can no longer count the blues and purples
on your arms, strong hands marking you like
indelible ink; until you can no longer count
the number of times you heard provoked or
asked for it; until you can no longer count
on him.

Count on yourself
from now on. Promise
yourself that it would
never happen again.

Guard your heart, the blues and purples of it,
close it and lock it and slide the key under
the threadbare carpet for now. Don’t worry,
you will find it when you need to. It can
wait. Close your heart, love, but open
your mouth to speak just before you leave—
not to say goodbye, but to tell him you’re done
breaking. There are only pinks and golds
in your horizon, and even indelible ink
washes off in time, fades out the way voices
in the night do. And when he laughs
and tells you to save it for yourself, don’t
allow yourself to shut down. Even when
he says it again and again: save it for yourself.

Save it for yourself. Run a hand over your face,
everything is in place, remember,
tear your eyes away from his mouth, still
moving, trace a path to the front door, and
save yourself.