The First Stanza of This Poem is a Lie

By: Elena Unger

I know love, lust,
and lonely well enough
to tell them apart.

I loved you and I knew it
when we lied in the park
beneath the marbled dusk
of a melted midnight.
I didn’t notice the sting of mosquitos
feasting on my ankles;
I was too distracted by the feeling
of your skin. You played me
a song, and I hated it. I listened anyways
again and again.

You taught me to love myself
but I only really learned when you left.
For a time I was awkward and unfamiliar
with the embers nestled in my ribcage.
I was the same with you.
The first time I came over we walked your dog;
I asked about classes and complemented the trees
as if all of them were yours.

When I stopped loving you
I started lusting after him.
Bit lip wide eyed want
pooled inside a dazzling shell.
I was an excitable exoskeleton,
lonely and surrounded by people.

When I started lusting after myself, though,
a love was born that is immortal—
I find that funny.
Love may not be lust, but lust
became a love, of sorts, with my back to the bed.
My hands on my body,
my hands in my body,
reminded me of my realness,
my sturdiness, my vivacity.

It all makes perfect sense
until it doesn't.
I loved you and lusted after you.
I lusted after him and didn’t love him.
I lusted after myself and grew to love myself, too.
I never became a stranger
to the nip of loneliness.