I never learned to love
someone I did not see.

I learned to love
the stoop of my grandmother’s back
as she rinsed clean her fingers
of beets as red as blood,
for a table pregnant with love,
for a family troubled as any.

I learned to love
the smell that clung
to my grandfather’s stark fingers and yellowing
beard,
and the way those fingers
could provide flats of wood
for my imagination to carve
in an instant. The way he took nothing
to be worthwhile for believing in,
except for effort
and learning.

I learned to love
the voice of a woman
who was born from the womb
of generosity. She hated being photographed
but gave you a spotlight
for every moment
you dared exist
in her orbit. Her gift
is her giving
is her religion.

I may not be religious. May not
speak with Gods or Goddesses at night.
May not eat the dish
of your particular despair or hope.
But I know love. I know it in my tongue:
how utterly luscious it tastes
with all its desperation
and grit.

I never learned to love someone
I did not see. I learned
to love
the grit
of trying to love
the imperfect things;
the real people.

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