It’s Not Exploitation if the Gist is Rueful

by RC Gray

It’s late, I said, that’s why I’m writing you.
But the room is empty,
and you’ve never been in it anyway,
which makes this feel selfish.
Capitalizing on our bungled chances,
the recent across-the-table glares
that screamed, Jesus Christ,
how can it still be you
after everything?

And how we used to be—
or rather, how I remember us.
Idiot kids in the South, burning
through daylight like bottle rockets.
Our confessional timing
an Abbott and Costello routine:
frustratingly cyclical and off.

It’s late, though, and I’m tired enough
to admit the real mistake I made
was loving you and knowing it.
Of having the foresight to recognize
what deep love is in a small town:
a shackle soldered shut,
the kind of cloistered irreversible
that rips everything after apart.

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