My Therapist Says the Abuse Wasn’t Love

Two poems by Daniel Garcia

My Therapist Says the Abuse Wasn’t Love

Paradise

Progress—we’ve taken to sunsets at the beach close to 
your house. Laughing, I’ve chased you into the waves. 

You’re always so patient with me, even when your face 
says it all: lips pulled over your teeth, furrow set in the 

brow. I love that about you. We’ve been going steady 
a year now; today I’m treading lightly. You don’t 

need to say anything, love—I know you’re no good 
with words; it’s the thought that counts. I’ll say it: sorry 

is nothing if it isn’t true, & I’m getting better at 
seeing the signs: yesterday, the flush told me the tide 

was coming in. Was it your cheeks or mine? Scared, 
I hid in the laundry room; I cried before your hand 

came down. I understood: I’m only a thing to keep 
you above water. You’re always at your most honest 

the evening after; how you nuzzle my hair—an apology 
says so much less. But love, where has your head gone 

now, your shoulders are gliding back, vanishing in 
blue. Who needs respect when your hand’s slipping 

from my waist, no longer quite solid, the low thrum 
frantic, push pull kick, my legs bright, burning—wait,
 
I need you to get back, I won’t make it far without 
you with me—together, distant.



My Therapist Tells Me the Abuse Wasn’t Love

after Taneum Bambrick

You’re not listening to me either. What 
you know is what I have done to myself. 
You picture a heart gutted from fishing 
line; I see the man who kissed me before 

it hooked through. I’m in love, not stupid— 
a Heaven void of respect is just a dark room 
with blood on the walls. That’s not what this 
is about. The problem isn’t what’s stained 

his hands; it’s defending the boogeyman 
for wearing the face of my beloved. 
This wasn’t the first thing I’ve done against 
my will—I left Heaven in a night 

& I yanked the reel clean from my heart myself. 
You’re not the first person I’ve explained this to.

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