Ellen Beals, When I said I love you

When I said I love you

When I said it to you
as you wailed about the waters
swallowing your hospital bed

or reached to touch colors, waved
your arms, bruised blue with old blood

and even when you weren’t afraid in your wandering
and my instinct need not have been to shush you
but to follow the thread of your rambling
a-spin through some revolving door —

when I said I love you then,
why did I say it?

If you yearned for it
I failed you plenty.
But never more than when I left that sick room,
like it was a bad dream, wiping my eyes
and trying to figure out meaning.

So it comes down to this —

When I said it to you then
when you did not know who it was that held
your hand, that rubbed your head,
and tried to console you like an old baby,

was I saying it to you or
was I saying it so I could hear the words?

Ellen Wade Beals writes poetry and prose. She trained as a journalist. Her work has appeared in literary magazines, anthologies, and on the web. Her poem ‘Between the sheets’ appears in the textbook Everything’s a Text (Pearson 2010). She is the editor and publisher of Solace in So Many Words (Weighed Words LLC). Find her website here.

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