This isn’t the first thing I’ve lost, the first
time I’ve come up empty, but it is the first time
I’m looking you in the eye to tell you. Dear J,
I need to tell you I’ve lost the scarf
I asked you to knit for me. The truth is
I’ve been losing things forever: pens, poems,
people. Dear J, this isn’t the first thing missing
from my neck: shirts, hoodies, teeth deeply rooted.
Can you know it’s November by the wind alone?
My neck knows, the same way my hands know
weight when it’s lifted, or my head knows hair
when it thins, or my heart knows trust
when someone’s broken it. Dear J, the truth is
I’ve never won a game of battleship, all my life
firing shots that find an empty sea—I know
what it’s like to look someone in the eye
and still never find them. Dear J, a loss is what you gain
when something goes missing, so I am not empty.
I have a missing scarf, and I have the word “sorry”
stuck in and around my neck, and I have a grid
of misses and misfires sprawling back years
and years. You are only the latest let down.
My latest apology. I am so full of them. This one
is for you. Tie it around your neck. Let it keep you warm.
Cameron Barnett holds an MFA from the University of Pittsburgh, where he was poetry editor for Hot Metal Bridge, and co-coordinator of Pitt’s Speakeasy Reading Series. He teaches middle school at Falk Laboratory School, and is an associate poetry editor for Pittsburgh Poetry Review. His first collection, The Drowning Boy's Guide to Water (Autumn House Press) was a finalist for an NAACP Image Award.