Heartache and Retrospection: “This is a Gift”

In what she describes as a “thank-god-this-is-over kind of poem,” senior Cultural Studies and Communications major Alaina Yonkers reflects on the experience of leaving an unhealthy relationship and contemplates how lingering memories can “more or less taint a place” forever. She incorporates a strong extended metaphor (“Have you noticed that we only keep / The weeds we like to look at?”) and draws upon a popular Greek myth (“When Icarus was still far above us / Spelling out warnings in half-melted wax. . .”) to create a vivid description of the person from her speaker’s memories, leaving the reader both haunted and intrigued by its potency. Read Alaina’s poem, “This is a Gift” below.

This is a Gift

Alaina Yonkers

I haven’t seen much of your brake lights lately and it’s been too long
Since you let me near enough to read your plates
But I like to imagine you driving one-handed
With the other on somebody’s knee
And this somebody learning your crooked fingers
The ridges on the roof of your mouth
While I sleep alone in the bed by the window
With none of the stinging-palmed rage
No muttered prayers from across the room
Accusing face of a silent clock
Remember how I stopped time for you?
I only needed the batteries
Just sand in the sheets
Salt wind and bay waves
And my heartache to sing me to sleep.

Have you noticed that we only keep
The weeds we like to look at?
Productive plants and pretty things
Playing god in the garden
I suppose you get off on that
Darling, you are a weed
Soaking up my care
My sunlight
Letting me kiss your browning shoulders
As you climbed up onto mine
When Icarus was still far above us
Spelling out warnings in half-melted wax
This time, it’s me with the feathers
Settling at my feet as I Raise your barren form up
To warming, healing, life-giving light.

Remember the night I drove you home from Hyannis?
I braved rain-soaked streets all the while thinking
Some water might do you good
Thinking of a time when I couldn’t even Raise my head from your mattress
How I always trusted what you gave me
Laced with rebellion
Chased with a mama-must-never know
How I let you have the bed by the window
So you could be close to the bay
I am happy to report that time’s been passing
Only this time, I need your area code
And I begin my slow march back to the present
Methodically plucking
The plants that are choking
The weeds that mama wants to keep


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