Michelle Peñaloza

I wake at 3 in the morning to a duvet shoved to your half of the bed that I’ve fashioned in the shape of you.

Why I don’t just starfish myself across the whole mattress when I am alone makes me wonder about the difference between reliance and habit.

Longing and love. I’ve done this once before — different man, different me scooted to the edge of a bed, a vast field at my back.

Absence, then.

The lack as large as the figure itself.

Away from me, what keeps you up at night? Or do you sleep sounder, taking as much space as is there, the not-there me a non-factor?

In college I loved when professors wrote “I/eye” on the white board, declaring the essence of ourselves as the singularity of our vision. When you grow accustomed to a body always beside your own — what happens to your sight?

To the refractions of light as you — just you — perceive them? A different me was stupid for too many years.

Used to lies thin as tissue, I continued to love a man that hurt me until I dissolved.

The thumb of exhaustion pushes between my eyes, the bridge of my nose grows doughy, a soft, rising third eye.

Michelle Peñaloza is the author of Former Possessions of the Spanish Empire, winner of the 2018 Hillary Gravendyk National Poetry Prize (Inlandia Institute, 2019). The proud daughter of Filipino immigrants, Michelle was born in the suburbs of Detroit, MI and raised in Nashville, TN. She now lives in rural Northern California, in Covelo/Round Valley.