To Jan

This poem is about Jan, my first girlfriend. Although we had met several years earlier, we started dating on Thanksgiving weekend in 2016 and continued dating for two years before breaking up over the week after Christmas in 2018.

Although we are still friends, we were not well-matched for a relationship. However, we were each others’ first relationships and Jan realized she was trans soon after we started dating. As a result, the relationship was very important and formative for both of us. (Also, she is of Eastern European ancestry as well, and said that my apartment smelled of “safety and cabbage,” thus the last line of the poem.

“To Jan”
June 2018, in Catonsville, Maryland

When we first met,
I never thought I could love someone like you;
that someone like you could love me.
And I’m still not sure
that the geeky boy I met could have loved me,
even though he cared so much he tried to cure me
until the pain was too much for us both.
I thought you were gone forever, then;
I blocked you, too, and it was a relief.

But you came back to me,
months after I had fled your city
had fled to the banks of the river where I was born.
Something had changed:
I could see glimpses of the real you,
curled up tightly and clearly in pain,
trapped within your shell for far too long.
And I began to worry about you
instead of about what you might do.

It was so beautiful
to see the real you stirring, so sweet and scared:
I just wanted to hold you close, and comfort you.
And then, a miracle:
You wanted to hold tight to me, too,
instead of fleeing from my brokenness,
or trying to bind splints to wounds you didn’t understand.
I learned to trust another’s arms
and you slipped, bedraggled, out of your confining shell.

In that darkness,
a few weeks after the world ended, we found each other:
I still can’t believe that I can love and be loved so.
But in this broken world,
I need that warmth and safety,
the comfort we give and receive,
two wounded souls wrapped in each others’ arms.
Tightly bound in each others’ protection
like the heart of a cabbage safe in its leaves.