you are pummeled
by depths of pain unplumbed
wave after wave after wave—
memories leading to
revelations stormed by
questions that strike
again and again and again

my truths erupt from beneath
the heat and pressure of silent years
the volcano of scalding words
hits you so much harder than I expected—
your midnight sobs melt the skin off my heart
but I can’t dissolve that lava and sulfur
they have nowhere else to go

I watch in horror as
your tender dermis
(to which only I
‘ve been granted access)
is flayed, cremated
drifting away on the breeze as ash
flakes of your precious heart
now float miles away beyond my sight
land like snow on someone’s car somewhere—
a disrespected corpse not laid to rest

I trapped that molten pain for years
for fear of this very thing
that it would wound us past recovery
destroy everything we’d built
in opposition to it
the inverse empire of compliance we
built down into antipodean depths—
once it secured us; now it only
adds to the pressure
intensifies the heat
that explodes in my face

all I can offer is the pain of my presence
the burn of this honesty—
it’s a shit gift
for a nineteenth anniversary
but I give it in love
in fidelity
in fulfillment of my vows
giving you myself
because I have nothing else to give

so we sit side by side
watching our empire burn
unable to comfort each other
unwilling to walk away
stomachs churn when new year recycles old dates
we sift charred memories and
smiling photos that sting
we search for what remains in the wreckage
not alone
not together

which is exactly how
to end an anniversary poem

Katie E. Peckham is a neurodivergent who has a deep and abiding love for underdogs. She has been published in Anti-Heroin Chic, Running With Water, Quillkeepers, Corporeal Lit Mag, Boats Against the Current, and Heart. Soul. Pen.