The first time I ran a red light
there was a boy in the passenger’s seat
who laughed. The first time I put a bracelet in my pocket
and left the store without paying,
there was a dark-haired girl waiting to put her hand in mine.
I want to believe that love makes me reckless,
that I am the type to run through the rain,
grand declarations, airport goodbyes.
In reality there is sentiment: The bracelet I kept,
the taped-together interior of a car,
ceiling held up with thumbtacks,
folded notes on wide-ruled paper.
In reality words are never said, not the right ones,
and I am the type to count regrets at night
like sheep, falling asleep to the thought of lives
passed over, the comfort of not knowing.
In reality I would jump off a million cliffs
and never have the guts to admit, without
the surety of return. Someone ought to make it easy,
someone ought to force me, hands tied,
under pain of death, you behind the two-way mirror,
interrogation room recording. Nothing I could be
blamed for. To speak your name like the only words
of the only truth I know. But it’s my truth, and maybe
I know, handcuffed to a table, cut lip, holding onto my
last scrap of dignity, that it was never yours.
Karen Draper grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee, went to college in Missouri, and now lives in Los Angeles. She writes poetry to procrastinate working on her young adult novel manuscript. Find her on twitter and instagram @kurenable and at betweenthemap.tumblr.com.