#333 & #334: Friendships, breakups, poetry, and WTF?

Dear Captain A,

I’ve been friends with my friend, B, since 2004. We had a short but really important lovership in 2006, had a hard breakup, but then rebuilt our friendship. For the past five years, he’s been someone I’ve considered family and my best friend. We referred to each other as ‘non sexual life partners”, threw giant Thankstaking and Xmas parties for our queer chosen families. We are both estranged from our families of origin due to abuse and have been super committed to being really solid people in each other’s lives. He has been the person I always picked up the phone for, the person I pick up from the airport, and the person who I’ve prioritized being there for. Over the years, we’ve done  a huge amount of mental health and physical health support for each other that’s been a work in progress, but that has felt really good in terms of us both being able to offer a lot to each other and also have boundaries. He is the executor of my will and my medical power of attorney person. And we’ve also cooked and eaten lots of food, traveled, laughed our asses off, gone to movies, thrown parties and film nights for our friends, nerded out over hiphop and poetry, talked for hours,  gotten each other jobs, gone dancing and to the ocean, and been super involved in each other’s lives. I thought we were going to be in each other’s lives forever. Our breakup and the way we came back from it built this huge amount of trust and solidness in how we’ve handled conflict. He is a wonderful person.

We’re also both writers.  This year, my second book came out. There’s a poem cycle in it about our lovership and breakup. B. had heard a lot of those poems and we’d talked about them coming out, and what  I got from him was that he was supportive, and that if he had feelings come up, we’d talk about it.   He didn’t ask to read all of them, to veto them or the like, before the book came out. After the launch reading (which he attended), I checked in with B, and he said that he was indeed having some feelings come up.  We agreed to meet up and talk about it. (This was last November.)

When we met up, he said that he felt extremely hurt by one poem in particular in the book.  The poem he named really surprised me. To me, it’s a poem I wrote that skewers myself- that is pretty much me talking about the stage of a breakup where one is missing the person a lot and listening to an Ani Di Franco album on repeat. He is barely in the poem, and I don’t say anything negative about him in the poem.  When I’ve read it, it’s come across as a funny poem where I am naming and  laughing myself at the stage of a breakup when one is a mess. The one negative thing in it is where I talk about hating on the ex’s new partner, and then check myself and talk about how femme competiton is wrong, how the new partner is also someone vulnerable and deserving of respect.

However, when we met to talk about it, he was saying things like “You still hate me that much?”  I was really confused, and told him- and that it seemed true that he was interpreting the poem really really differently than I had meant it (or, to be honest, how people I have read the poem to have interpreted it) but that I understood that writing can hit people a lot of different ways and I wanted to hear what he was feeling in it. He said that the poem seemed very mean spirited against him. I felt really confused, again, as there are almost no references to him in the poem or identifying markers. I asked him what I could do to make it better. He asked me if I could take it out of the second edition. I told him I didn’t know how I felt about that, but I’d think about it. Around this point, I got pretty freaked out and self hating on myself for a bit, mostly because I was freaking out that this conflict felt really different than ones we’d had before and because I couldn’t believe that I had somehow hurt the person I cared about so much.

We spent the holidays together like we usually do, but he asked for a month of space after it. He then extended that to three months. I checked in with him then, saying that I respected his need for space but I was wondering if we could have a container around the time we took apart- that in my history with conflict, often the more time folks take, the more each person can build up a narrative around the conflict that makes it harder to resolve the conflict, and I also was worried that all of a sudden it’d be a year since we talked. I suggested that we go to a mediator, a counselor or his spiritual leader for support and counseling to try and move through the conflict. He said no to both the container and counseling,  that he needed an unlimited amount of time to feel his feelings.  The separation was hard for me, but I focused on praying, sending him love, and doing what I could on my own in terms of thinking, talking to my counselor and journalling to try and sort through the situation.

Yesterday, I received an email from him saying that he is ending our friendship, that he will not go to counseling/mediation because he doesn’t think it will do any good, and that if I write or try to contact him in any way he will not reply.

I am really blown away that he is choosing this – to unilaterally end  an 8 year friendship, six of which have been very close and committed- post one conversation nine months ago and eight months of space. To be honest, I’m also pretty angry with him. I know I can’t make him do anything, but I am really upset that  he is choosing to walk away when one conversation nine months ago is all the attempt to deal with this conflict that we have.  In some ways, I am also not surprised. I’ve seen him do similar things- unilaterally and permanently cut lovers and friends off, for good – before. He is close to almost none of his former lovers. But it still feels devastating.

Part of me feels that all I can ethically do is accept that he has chosen to end our friendship, perhaps write him a letter stating my love and care for him (and my confusion over what the fuck has happened) and send it to him with no expectations that he will reply. Part of me feels like I have been way too nice and I want to tell him, no, this is not fucking okay with me, we have a commitment and we have to talk! I’m not sure what the right move is.

I’m also, honestly, worried about him. These actions don’t seem in keeping with the person I have been friends with for this long. I’m worried that he might have some mental health stuff coming up. Because we’ve been taking space, the amount I know is limited, but I do know via friends that his chronic health conditions have been getting worse, that he’s been having a lot more pain and physical limitations. He seems to be isolating a lot- to be going out much less (due to pain and lack of energy and the ableism of the world) and to also be seeing friends less. Again, there may be nothing I can do about any of this, but it doesn’t stop me from worrying and wondering what, if anything, I can do.

Finally, I don’t know if this is relevant, but this conflict started about two months after he started a new romantic relationship- one that he said was the most intense one he’d had since we broke up as lovers five years ago. He and his partner seem really happy, and I am genuinely happy for him- she’s awesome. However, there’s this part of me that wonders if there’s some connection to him choosing to detach from me and him being in a more intense relationship than he’s had in a long time – that he couldn’t figure out how to have a nonsexual partnership and a romantic partnership at the same time.

What do you think my best options are? And what the fuck do you think happened? I am kind of flabbergasted.


Captain WTF

PS: I have spent a lot of time thinking about the ethics of writing about folks in one’s life. And here’s what I’ve come to. I think everyone has the right to write their own stories. I don’t think people have the right to write someone else’s story without their permission. But I think that we have the right to write our own. I would defend B’s right to write anything about his experience of me, even if I didn’t like it or if it wasn’t flattering.

Dear Captain WTF (aka #333):

I think you’re right about the ethics of writing about other people. Everyone gets to tell their own story.

Whatever happened, I don’t think it was that particular poem.

I think you should NOT contact B. He specifically asked you not to. Whatever the reason, that is a boundary he is setting and that he gets to set. I know you want to find out what you can do, but he told you what you can do: NOTHING. Do nothing. You’ve seen him to do this to other people before, so it’s in him to do this. You just didn’t think he would ever do it to you. Someday he will probably do the same thing to this new person he passionately loves because being the first one out the door is part of who he is. We’ve talked before about how awkward and painful it is to receive the attempt to have the last word – it never endears the sender.

You may never get any explanation. You probably won’t get a satisfying explanation. Relationships are choices and sometimes choices are brutal. He knows where to find you. If he wanted to find you, he would. Any explanation we could come up with would be a made-up story. He loved you too much or too little. In the end, too little.

I’m really sorry I don’t have more comforting things to tell you. I think the things you should do are all about grief – mourning and learning to accept the loss, surrounding yourself with comforting people who won’t bail on  you, keep going to counseling, re-assigning your emergency contact & legal issues, putting anything and everything associated with him (including that letter that you will write but not actually send) in a box and burying it in the back of a closet or a storage unit or a literal hole in the ground, and being extremely kind to yourself. With mutual friends, be honest. “We’re not in touch anymore. He ended our friendship unilaterally. It’s very painful for me to think about, and I never got a good reason why.” (You don’t owe this guy good PR and smoothing things over).

Grieve him like he died. For you, maybe he did.

Eventually there will be some poems in that, probably.

Dear Captain,

So the other day I told the guy I’d been hanging out with for some weeks/months that actually I liked him in a romantic way, and he said well he had figured as much, but he was in love with another woman and wanted to be just friends. Fair enough, I’m a bit sad but well.

But I’m getting so tired of it. I’m 30 years old, all my relationships combined add up to about two years, give or take, the longest having been the first, 13 months. I meet a guy I like, I see some more of him, I like him even more, and in the end he turns me down or it doesn’t work out or whatever. And this again, and again, and again. I’m just getting tired of it, always the same story, I don’t think there’s anything particularly wrong with me, at least not to the point that I’m unlovable or undateable, so I suppose I’m just unlucky. I would like to have a boyfriend at some point, so I suppose I’ll just keep trying. Meet a guy, try to see more of him, see if maybe this is the one? no? Oh well, I’ll see if I meet another one… maybe this is him? No, again not. Etcetera.

Now my question: do you perhaps know a nice poem about this? About getting tired of my own sad repeating story?

Thanks for your attention,


Dear A (#334):

I should probably  have kicked this one to DOCTOR Sweet Machine, who just finished a dissertation/book on poetry, but we’re a literary bunch here and many can play this game.

To tide you over, here are some standbys:

Love After Love, by Derek Walcott

Friendship After Love, by Ella Wheeler Wilcox

The Ballad of the Lonely Masturbator, by Ann Sexton

Now, as to the rest of your letter, sometimes stuff like that just happens: You fall for a friend who doesn’t fall for you. You were brave and smart to speak up about your feelings, and rejection was the risk you took. Sometimes people aren’t ready for your jelly, even if you are awesome like Sonia Sanchez:


watch out fo the full moon of sonia
shinin down on ya.
git yo/self fattened up man
you gon be doing battle with me
ima gonna stake you out
grind you down
leave greasy spots all over yo/soul
till you bone dry. man.
you gon know you done been touched by me
this time.
ima gonna tattoo me on you fo ever
leave my creases all inside yo creases
i done warned ya boy
watch out
for the full moon of sonia
shinin down on ya

-Sonia Sanchez

If you’re feeling Miss Sonia, clear your calendar – you’re not getting out of bed except to pee or eat for the next month. But if you’re not feeling Miss Sonia, that poem will have you double-checking that you’ve locked your doors and windows before you go to bed, right?

It sounds like you’ve been trying to the Not Love Perhaps route.

Not Love Perhaps – A.S.J. Tessimond

This is not Love perhaps – Love that lays down
Its life, that many waters cannot quench, nor the floods drown –
But something written in a lighter ink, said in a lower tone:
Something perhaps especially our own:
A need at times to be together and talk –
And then the finding we can walk
More firmly through dark narrow places
And meet more easily nightmare faces:
A need to reach out sometimes hand to hand –
And then find Earth less like an alien land:
A need for alliance to defeat
The whisperers at the corner of the street:
A need for inns on roads, islands in seas, halts for discoveries to be shared,
Maps checked and notes compared:
A need at times of each for each
Direct as the need of throat and tongue for speech.

Since this sounds like it is an oft-repeating cycle for you, I’m going to recommend NOT trying to become close friends with people you’re interested in romantically and hope that the friendship will turn into something else. It sounds like you got really invested in the idea of this thing before you figured out whether it was viable. That sets you up to feel a little entitled because you’ve invested all this time and emotional energy and to be very hurt when it doesn’t work out.

I know, I know, some people burn slow. I see you, steadfast & patient hearts! Still, since the letter writer is complaining that this is not working out, I suggest speaking up sooner rather than later about attraction.

You don’t have to know if you’re going to fall in love with the person to ask them on a date. In fact, it’s better if you don’t know that! You don’t have to control everything 12 moves ahead. You CAN’T actually control anything because it’s all subjective and there are never any guarantees. All you can do is say “Hey, you’re neat. Want to go to ____ thing on _____ day with me?” (Avoid “soon” or “sometime” or other vagueness. Lock it down!)

If the person says “No thanks” say “Ok, had to ask” and don’t bring it up again.* Show them that you respect their “no.” If they change their mind, they know where to find you! A person who is interested in you might refuse your suggestion, but will be be pretty careful to say “But ask me again next week when my schedule clears!” or “Would this day work better for you?” People who like you will usually act like they like you.

There’s no rule that you can’t be friends after something like this happens, but I think there is a pretty good rule that you shouldn’t hang out and become friends hoping that they’ll change their minds. It’s actually pretty  healthy when someone you like says “No thanks” to take a big old break from interacting with them and give yourself time to reset your feelings. Sometimes the healthiest thing is to say, “Ok, cool” and when the other person says “Ok, but I’d still like to be friends,” you say “I’ll think about it” (out loud) and “No way, Jose” (in your heart) and move the hell on from the whole thing. Don’t set yourself up to be hanging there, pining for what might have been.

If the person says yes, go out with them. Use the date(s) for their intended purpose: to spend time with someone, get to know them better, and see if you want to consider a closer relationship. You may find out that you work better as friends. You may find out that you really work together and develop feelings for each other. You may develop a painful mismatch. All of these are ok outcomes.

Turns out there are some pretty good poems for people who don’t know what the hell is up:

Sestina – Marilyn Hacker

For a week now our bodies have whispered
together, telling each other secrets
you and I would keep. Their language,
harder and more tender than this, wakes
us suddenly in the half dawn, tangled
dragons on their map. They have a plan.

We are stranded travelers who plan
to ditch our bags and walk. The hill wind whispers
danger and rain. We are going different ways. That tangled
thornbush is where the road forks. The secrets
we told on the station bench to keep awake
were lies. I suspect from your choice of language

that you are not speaking your native language.
You will not know about the city plan
tattooed behind my knee. But the skin wakes
up in humming networks, audibly whispers
over the dead wind. Everybody’s secrets
jam the wires. Syllables get tangled

with bus tickets and matchbooks. You tangled
my hair in your fingers and language
split like a black fig. I suck the secrets
off your skin. This isn’t in the plan,
the subcutaneous transmitter whispers.
Be circumspect. What sort of person wakes

up twice in a wrecked car? And we wake
in wary seconds of each other, tangled
damply together. Your cock whispers
inside my thigh that there is language
without memory. Your fingers plan
wet symphonies in my garrulous secret

places. There is nothing secret
in people crying at weddings and singing at wakes;
and when you pack a duffel bag and plan
on the gratuitous, you will still tangle
purpose and habit, more baggage, more language.
It is not accidental what they whisper.

Our bodies whispered under the sheet. Their secret
language will not elude us when we wake
into the tangled light without a plan.

And if you end up in shitty rejection-town again, Marilyn Hacker is as good a guide as any:

She Bitches About Boys

To live on charm, one must be courteous.
To live on others’ love, one must be lovable.
Some get away with murder being beautiful.

Girls love a sick child or a healthy animal.
A man who’s both itches them like an incubus,
but I, for one, have had a bellyful

of giving reassurances and obvious
advice with scrambled eggs and cereal;
then bad debts, broken dates, and lecherous

onanistic dreams of estival
nights when some high-strung, well-hung, penurious
boy, not knowing what he’d get, could have been more generous.

This has been an episode of Chicken Soup for the English Major’s Soul.

94 thoughts on “#333 & #334: Friendships, breakups, poetry, and WTF?

  1. My favorite poem of all time:

    Two-Volume Novel

    The sun’s gone dim, and
    The moon’s turned black;
    For I loved him, and
    He didn’t love back.
    – Dorothy Parker

    1. Seconded. Dorothy Parker is all I read when I’m heartbroken. I know I’m healing when I can resist the urge to print up giant copies of every single thing she ever wrote and plaster them everywhere.

    2. I’m working my way through her short stories at the moment and if I didn’t know they were written decades ago, I’d think they were ripped from the Captain’s archives.

    3. My favorite Parker also applies here, I think:


      Oh, life is a glorious cycle of song,
      A medley of extemporanea;
      And love is a thing that can never go wrong;
      And I am Marie of Roumania.

  2. I love your poetry entries. This line slays me each time:
    “Girls love a sick child or a healthy animal.
    A man who’s both itches them like an incubus,”

    I find myself saying it inside my head as a kind of protection spell to ward off Vader.

    More poetry always please.

    1. It is Vader-repellent. I have related to all the poems shared above TOO MUCH at times.

      Pretty happy to have this one be my current jam.

  3. Hi A,
    Why don’t you try on-line dating? There are no questions about whether or not you’re in the friend-zone because everybody on a dating site is there to date. It’s also self-selecting and the people who are writing to you will do so because they find you attractive. It may or may not lead to a relationship, but it might help you develop some better antennae to use with potential partners you run into elsewhere. Plus, it’s a big ego boost to get emails and ims from people who think you’re a hottie and want to date you. Then hanging on for months waiting for mr. right greatly looses its appeal. I really like OK Cupid (it’s free and kind of facebook-like).

    Hope that helps.

    1. “everybody on a dating site is there to date”

      That’s not true. Many dating sites (OkCupid being the one I use) have profile settings to indicate one is looking for “new friends” or “activity partners,” etc., and that is what I use OkCupid for, not dating. Checking what people do have in their “looking for” and “you should message me if” sections (on OkCupid; I don’t know what these are called on other sites) can definitely help you figure out whether someone is seeking romantic dating or not.

      1. Have you ever found someone on OK Cupid who was not there to find a date or one night stand? I deleted my OK Cupid profile after two years of not ever, not once having a contact that was from anyone other than someone looking for casual sex. And my profile stated that I was married and did not want to cyber with anyone and was not looking for sexual partners. And my settings were for new friends. I got really tired of starting to chat with someone and having him try to steer the conversation into what my panties looked like or what I liked in bed.

        1. In answer to your questions, yes:

          1) My current boyfriend.
          2) My last boyfriend.
          3) My friend D.
          4) My friend M., who introduced me to the Werewolf people.
          5) My friend E., a poet.
          6) Commander Logic met her husband there.

          I could keep going…It’s just a place full of people, so some people are going to be terrible and some are going to be great like anywhere. Delete/block the terrible ones.

  4. I can really identify with WTF (#333). I had this same thing happen to me two years ago. I agree with Captain: do not engage, grieve for him like he’s dead. You don’t owe him well wishes and it won’t help you get over him at all.

    My WTF moment was equally startling because it seemed to come out of nowhere. We were so close. But like you, LW, I’d seen her completely cut other people out of her life before and like Captain said I just never thought it would happen to me.

    She texted me one night out of the blue and said she wasn’t coming down to visit me like we had planned. I asked her why in a text and she said “because we’re not friends anymore” WTF?!?? That doesn’t make sense…what happened? I called her and she offered some explanation, but none of it made any sense (I don’t respect her cultural heritage and something about Klonopin that I never did figure out).

    Like you, LW, the friendship meant so much to me that I had to say something like, “You may not want to ever speak to me again and I won’t talk to you if you don’t want me to, but I really appreciated your friendship and I’ll always love you.”

    Now I wish I hadn’t. She dumped me because I was getting my life on track (new job, new house) and she was still calling me in the middle of the night to pick her up drunk and literally naked in her car because she had thrown up on her self and stripped down. She was also eating alot of Valium and Xanax. She told me that all of our mutual friends hated me, which wasn’t true.

    All in all, she wasn’t as good of a friend as I thought at the time because she dumped me for some absurd reason that was derived with drug-induced logic. Time will make this better, but I know how much it hurts. Best wishes.

    1. It probably wasn’t you, it was me (making you up inside my head):

      Mad Girl’s Love Song
      Sylvia Plath

      “I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead;
      I lift my lids and all is born again.
      (I think I made you up inside my head.)

      The stars go waltzing out in blue and red,
      And arbitrary blackness gallops in:
      I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

      I dreamed that you bewitched me into bed
      And sung me moon-struck, kissed me quite insane.
      (I think I made you up inside my head.)

      God topples from the sky, hell’s fires fade:
      Exit seraphim and Satan’s men:
      I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.

      I fancied you’d return the way you said,
      But I grow old and I forget your name.
      (I think I made you up inside my head.)

      I should have loved a thunderbird instead;
      At least when spring comes they roar back again.
      I shut my eyes and all the world drops dead.
      (I think I made you up inside my head.)”

  5. I think a lot of people write breakup poetry.

    There’s something kind of awesome and awesomely terrifying to be a good enough poet to write good breakup poetry and have it published for all the world to read.

    Normally we would say, never ever show your ex your breakup poetry! The feelings you have while trying to break attachment are big and ow and ack, and your ex, even one who’s a friend years later, had their own big ow ack. You’re not part of each other’s ack, that’s the whole point of breaking up, and so you have no idea how your ack and their ack might interact.

    Then boom! Years later, you find out that one small part of your ackful story was the the thing that made your ex’s head explode. Years later, even! Feelings you processed years before into a poem, feelings pinned into words and planted on paper, hit your ex right in the secret explosive heart.

    What the fuck, indeed.

    Makes you wonder how long things would have gone on if you were a terrible poet?

    Personally, I’m a fan of truth and beauty and grace. I’m glad you’re an awesome poet. I’m so sorry that your friend was not awesome enough to stay with you.

    1. “You’re not part of each other’s ack, that’s the whole point of breaking up”

      Ohhh, right. Thanks!

    2. LW, 333 WTF! I hear you….. Similar situation for me & part of a poem I wrote is:

      I have loved you so much,
      Over the years,
      But you are the C&$T,
      That made me cry tears…….

  6. I had something similar to #333 happen to me. It really sucked. The hardest part for me was I kept wanting to think well of the person who dumped me, so I was desperate for some excuse that meant they hadn’t acted poorly, but instead had some legitimate reason for treating me like that. It only stopped hurting all the time when I accepted that there was no way I was going to be able to be okay with it. I let myself be angry and hold a grudge (not one I acted on–but on the other hand, I let myself know that I no longer owed that person anything) and gave the little fact of that feud a place in my life, tucked towards the back of my brain with the list of foods I don’t like to eat and restaurants with bad service.

    1. “… tucked towards the back of my brain with the list of foods I don’t like to eat and restaurants with bad service.”

      Oh, thank you, for that imagery. I hope you don’t mind that I immediately appropriated the idea and expanded on the metaphor in a poem of my own.

      Also, a multitude of thanks to the Captain and Awkward Army for reminding this reader that poetry still matters to some people, and that if I were but to write it, there might still be people left who would read it.

        1. I have tucked you away
          with foods I don’t like to eat
          and restaurants with bad service.

          You are
          the cold mass of linguine noodles
          molded to the bottom of the Tupperware,
          no longer individual

          noodles, the sauce congealed;
          no microwave in the world
          can make this good again.

          You are
          the apathetic waiter
          who leaves my glass totally empty,
          and who forgets
          to bring the side dish;
          and comes in halfway through my dinner
          reeking of smoke.
          You nearly break the plates when you plunk them down.

          I know life must be disappointing for you.
          You don’t have to make it disappointing for me.

          So you’re in that cobwebby corner now,
          staring out from dusty windows
          with what you imagine is a sad and forlorn expression
          and as we wander by you
          (my musings and I),
          one says “Let’s go in, I’ve heard about this place,”
          and I can say,
          “No, I had a bad time there once.

          I’m not going back.”

          1. 😀 😀 😀

            I love this poem! Partly because it manages in some brilliant way to be everything I needed to say about that friendship but never did.

          2. Thank you! That means more than you could possibly know.

            (I’ll leave it at that, though, because I’m worried we’ll start to clog up the comment space :p )

          3. Hey, your poem is awesome! I particularly love “no longer individual/ noodles” and the smoky waiter.

          4. And “no microwave in the world can make this good again.” Such a good metaphor for friendships that have gone furry and funky-smelling!

          5. Wow, thanks, everyone! I had no idea it would go over that well :p I’ve been dreaming of getting published since high school (but have been out of writing practice for the past five years or so), so this is really encouraging. Thank you.

            @Private Editor: I’m not opposed… what did you have in mind for it, gankage-wise?

          6. Perhaps a Note on my FB Wall so that I can include whatever name or handle you prefer that I use, plus context so that readers can understand the genesis of the poem and come to visit it in its natural habitat (and, we can hope, learn something and/or join the ranks of the Awkward Army). But really, it’s your poem; I want to make sure you’re comfortable with wherever it appears. You have absolute veto power.

          7. Oh – that’s cool, I’d be ok with that. Especially if it gets more eyes on Captain Awkward’s awesomeness 🙂

          8. SadieBlake works just dandy, though she doesn’t exist anywhere on FB (or if she does, she isn’t me :p).

          9. Awesome! Thanks for the very cool intro, too!

            Would it be ok if I friended you on the Faceyspaces?

          10. This is brilliant – I really enjoyed it. (Late to the party but wanting to leave kudos anyway.)

  7. LW#333, completely agree with the Captain’s advice. But I would like to add that if you feel you have a letter to him inside of your head, write it out anyway just for yourself but do not send it. Writing can be such a powerful way to process feelings and sometimes envisioning that audience helps. Anyways, you don’t need his consent to write a letter to him that is actually for yourself if it never gets sent. You can potentially do something ceremonially with that letter afterward that symbolizes your intention to begin letting go of those feelings – burning the letter is a classic. Doing something nice for yourself afterwards like an awesome bath or some daydreaming in a park or whatever helps center you can help refocus your spirit and heart on the love you have for yourself. Good luck and I am so sorry that your friendship ended like that.

  8. If I may, LW334:

    This comment is in no way meant to imply blame for your “failures” at making relationships work. I am a clumsy commenter at best and usually mostly grateful I am not deleted! But for a long time in my romantic journey, I found that I was repeating a pattern, and the only thing I could do was try and figure out what the repeating note in that pattern was, so that I could do what *I* could do on my end to avoid it in future.

    What I discovered was that I was always trying to be with emotionally unavailable people. Specifically energy vampires and people who agreed with me that I wasn’t as good as they were. These boys were very different in style, personality, interests, etc, but they all had that one trait in common, one that was apparently catnip to me. Upon further reflection, I learned what about the emotionally unavailable was “appealing” to the inner core of me. Blahblah baggage but basically, I wasn’t consciously choosing these people, but the little flashing red light hidden inside their different meatbags was beckoning me equally all the same.

    I was making the bad-though-unconscious choices – (here is where I am blaming myself, but I do not mean to be blamey on YOU) – because I was ignorant as to why I was finding myself in that predicament over and over. Whether it was long- or short-term things, it was always the same. I had to diagnose that attraction magnet in myself, then learn to recognize the variegated sources and signs of that catnip in the gents.

    From your short letter, it sounds a little like you are approaching folks as friends first, and then either discovering or revealing feelings after they have already friendzoned you. One of my besties does the exact same thing – she befriends men and spends years being awesome platonic pals, and then thinks maybe this guy is actually dating material, and she has long past missed the window of opportunity to be seen as a romantic object – she usually figures out her feelings when she feels jealous of a new woman in the guy’s circle.

    In her case, she does it out of near-paralyzing fear of vulnerability and loss of control of her emotional cool. If that is you, I can’t tell you how she has overcome it because she has not, out of deep fear. But she is trying. The commentariat here as always are spot-on, so I can contribute little better, but my comment here is just to let you know that with self-reflection and a little bravery, I truly believe you can overcome whatever emotional bell jar you find yourself trapped within. So, you know, I’m cheerleading for you out here in the aether!

  9. LW1 – I have been through (am going through? yes, that’s probably more honest) some version of this, and I can wholeheartedly agree with “grieve him like he died”. Writing to him will not help, and yeah, that sucks, in a giant unfathomable way. And you will never really know what the fuck happened, and that is part of the grieving, and it takes much longer than you think, and just when you start to feel okay, something new will pop up and it will be clear that you’re still grieving. Don’t write to him. Write for yourself. Write more poetry, write, write, write, think, walk, feel, write, dance, cry, write, talk with a therapist, find the people who are still there for you, and write some more.

    I also agree with carbonatedwit’s “I’m a fan of truth and beauty and grace.” Which, in case it’s unclear, are yours, despite this awful thing that is happening.

  10. On a sillier note, here’s a favourite Wendy Cope poem about break-ups:

    The day he moved out was terrible –
    That evening she went through hell.
    His absence wasn’t a problem
    But the corkscrew had gone as well.

  11. A few more poems that LW #334 might like:

    Jee Leong Koh, A Lover’s Recourse. (Long, but worth the trouble.)

    Wendy Cope, Rondeau Redouble. (More lighthearted.)

    Stacie Cassarino:

    Goldfish are Ordinary

    At the pet store on Court Street,
    I search for the perfect fish.
    The black moor, the blue damsel,
    cichlids and neons. Something
    to distract your sadness, something
    you don’t need to love you back.
    Maybe a goldfish, the flaring tail,
    orange, red-capped, pearled body,
    the darting translucence? Goldfish
    are ordinary
    , the boy selling fish
    says to me. I turn back to the tank,
    all of this grace and brilliance,
    such simplicity the self could fail
    to see. In three months, I’ll leave
    this city. Today, a chill in the air,
    you’re reading Beckett fifty blocks
    away, I’m looking at the orphaned
    bodies of fish, undulant and gold fervor.
    Do you want to see aggression?
    the boy asks, holding a purple beta fish
    to the light while dropping handfuls
    of minnows into the bowl. He says,
    I know you’re a girl and all,
    but sometimes it’s good to see.

    Outside, in the rain, we love
    with our hands tied,
    while things tear away at us.

  12. Some thoughts for LW#333 (WTF) to consider…

    As writers, we know the power of a narrative, the impact it can on our memories and our interpretations of events. It’s clear you have a strongly defined narrative of this friendship. (“an 8 year friendship, six of which have been very close and committed”) It’s also clear that he has a different narrative in place.

    And what the fuck do you think happened? I am kind of flabbergasted.

    What happened, LW, was that you accepted your narrative as the narrative, when in fact, your friend had his own narrative of events.

    This played out first in micro-scale (your “my poem is about X” versus his “your poem is about Y”) and then again in macro-scale. (his “I need time, and I don’t know how much” versus your “let’s put a time limit on it, and then go to counselling”)

    LW, I encourage you to engage in a bit of “Rashamon”-eque contemplation. You have your story, but your also friend has their own story and it’s clearly quite different than yours.

    In his story, your poem may have hurt him or triggered long-dormant hurts previously set aside. In his story, after telling you how he was hurt, you might have deflected with rationalizations (“other people don’t see it that way” and “no one reading that poem would think it was about you”) rather than giving his hurt feelings their due. In his story, the holiday season following that might have been agonizing, or eye-opening, or any number of other not-pleasant things that continued to shift his narrative away from yours. In his story, he asked you to respect his feelings by giving him whatever time he needed, and instead, you issued a deadline for his emotions and the presence of an arbiter to listen and judge.

    Is that really what he thinks? I have no idea, no way of knowing. But what I do know is that the story you are telling is not his story.

    What do you think my best options are?

    First, respect your friend’s wishes!
    Write whatever letters you want, but do not send them. Burn them in a symbolic pyre if you like, or shred them into confetti to toss on the wind, but don’t try to contact this person again.

    Next, clean up the unclean remnants of this friendship. Update your will, change your power-of-attorney, and remove him from your various social media outlets. (twitter, facebook, whathaveyou) Follow the Captain’s excellent advice about mutual friends, and ask them not to pass along details about him to you.

    Finally, keep writing. Make new friends, or find a new writing group, keep working on new pieces and polishing the old ones, and generally continue living your life.

    1. I think this is very insightful. He felt differently about the friendship than you did. We can’t know how he felt because we have know way of knowing his side, but it seems very unlikely that the poem was the only reason he broke it off. You never really know what is going on inside someone. Sometimes people stay friends when they’re in love, even though they’re secretly feeling hurt all the time. Sometimes people have other uncomfortable or painful feelings that they feel like they can’t express, but they value the friendship so they keep it going while dealing with the bad feelings privately — and the one day, they finally realize that indefinite space is the only way to make it stop.

      Whatever is going on with him, it’s not the same thing that’s going on with you. He feels like he needs to move on, and unfortunately you just need to let him. You can’t tell him “we have a commitment and we need to talk” — he doesn’t have any obligation to talk, or to stay in a friendship with you. It sounds like you think he owes it to you to “work it out,” meaning that you would go through counseling or conversations until he was willing to return to how things used to be. You feel like you need to make him understand that the poem wasn’t about him, and that he’s being unreasonable, so that he goes back to being the friend that you want him to be. But the way things used to be was likely not working for him. If it was, this would not have happened.

      1. “You never really know what is going on inside someone.”

        Very true, and it sounds like part of LW333’s pain comes from the fact that the friend had previously “processed” or what-have-you all out loud where the LW could see it. It sounds like maybe the LW is confused and upset that suddenly friend has his own stuff going on inside his own head that he hasn’t shared with the LW. But no matter how close you are, and how much you’ve been through, it’s unreasonable to expect another person to share a brain with you. The advice to grieve seems right on. Your friend suddenly decided for whatever reason that he was done, and that sucks. But it’s already happened, and it sounds like you can’t change it.

        I’m sorry that this hurts so much, LW333, and that you likely won’t get a good explanation. Take care of yourself, and in time the hurt will get a little less and a little less, and maybe someday you won’t feel like you have such a giant painful friend-shaped hole anymore.

  13. I ended up dropping a friend cold, decades ago. We got along so well, we could talk about anything, but she ended up being poison for me. Looking back, I can see how I was poison for her too. She asked me to go to mediation with her. I did and it changed nothing for me. I doubt it helped her to hear me quote ” ‘Take me in oh tender woman,’ sighed the snake “. Even with me being the one to end it, I grieved the friendship for years. I would wake in tears from dreams of her. Slowly the gaping hole in my heart healed and my life was better for not having her in it. I sincerely hope her life is better for not having me in it. Even retelling the experience here brings up deep melancholy.
    I guess what I am trying to illustrate with my words is that we can’t know another’s heart. You may never know why he broke off his friendship with you and even if he told you in words that made sense to you, it probably wouldn’t help heal your heart. My advice is to grieve and move on as best as you can.

  14. A few years ago, I had a friend break up with me. We had never had a fight. We had never disagreed about anything. I let her in like no one else. I thought we were soul sisters. It happened in a similar way, #3
    33- not a book of poetry but I did something , made a small (I thought) error, apologized, we talked about it. I thought all was well. We continued as before. Then, weeks later, she canceled a friend outing abruptly- she said she wasn’t feeling well. And the next day I opened a 3000 word email where she basically said no, it wasn’t OK, and she was not sick and also we were no longer friends.

    For me, it was unfair, hurtful and completely out of nowhere, but she must have been going over it in her head for weeks. This is because we are each protagonists and directors for our own personal onoing biopics, and therefore we each decide what is of primary consequence and what gets left on the cutting room floor.

    you are not finished with the story of your friendship, but he is. Which means that any communication from you right now (until he contacts YOU) will be seen as unwelcome, even if they are as lovely and well meant as a letter of goodbye.

    1. Can I ask you (or anyone who’s been through something similar) a question? How would you feel if your friend came back, say, 6 months later?

      I ask because I kind of did something like that to a friend, and now I’m debating whether it’s better to let bygones be bygones, or whether to contact her to apologize (with no assumptions of anything further). I didn’t send a 3000-word screed, I just processed on my own for a couple weeks after she did some hurtful things at a very difficult time in my life, then made my decision and cut her off completely. Had I been in a better mental state I would have talked things over with her, as I just did with another friend who pulled a similar disappearing act a few months later, but I was struggling to get by at that time and couldn’t deal. Now I can. So, should your friend (or #333’s friend, or, you know, me) change hir mind, should zie contact to apologize or let it go?


      1. Well, I got friend-dumped for reasons I felt were unfair. Maybe a year later the former friend contacted me to apologize and make overtures about renewing the friendship.

        I chose not to renew the friendship but I was fine with her contacting me. We are now able to interact politely as acquaintances on the very rare occasions it’s necessary to smooth social interactions with other people. Otherwise, we’re just not in contact.

        It’s not like you’re imposing something on someone by asking/offering to talk – you’re giving them the option of having a conversation. Maybe they’ll want it, maybe they won’t. As long as this person has not explicitly said “do not contact me,” I do not see any harm in offering. If they want it, you’ll probably both be glad you offered. If they don’t, it’s not necessarily a failure either, just an offer they chose not to accept. I’d say do it.

      2. Everyone will react differently. Personally, my ex-friend did come along. She didn’t want to talk about it, just suddenly (2 plus years and one missed wedding later) she acted as if we were best friends and everything! is! fine!

        When she cut me off, I couldn’t figure it out. I sent two broken-hearted emails and a letter (I cut it off at that because I didn’t want to stalk anyone). I was devastated. I went to therapy about it. It was one of the hardest break-ups I have ever had in my life, much much harder than many romantic ones.

        Personally, I can’t deal with the let’s-not-talk-about-it-but-act-like-we-are-bestest friends stuff. I realized this after I hung out with her one-on-one and spent the whole time feeling desperately uncomfortable and wishing it was over. She doesn’t do frank talks, period, so the only thing I know how to do is to slow fade her, because being around her just reminds her of how hurt I was, and we will never ever talk about it. Frankly, I’m not sure if I would even want to talk about it at this point. I want to move on.

        Does that mean that you and your friend are me and mine? No. By all means reach out cautious friend-tentacles, and be prepared to talk about it (or not, depending on the friend). Just be prepared also for a wall of silence, or for a brusque reply. Be ok with whatever level of friendship this person is able to give you. If you are not ok with that, let it go and move on.

      3. If you regret how you handled it, but not that you did it at all, you should let it be. I mean, it is one thing if you were prepared to say “It was all my fault,” “I should have given you the benefit of the doubt,” “I made a mountain out of a molehill” or some version thereof. And even then,you have to understand that their willingness/ability to trust you again may never reach friendship levels.

        But if you’d be contacting to explain what they did wrong that justifiably inspired you to dump them cold, and only apologizing for the manner in which you did it (which is what it sounds like, the way you worded it)? Leave it. From your friend’s perspective, you’d just be picking at a scab. I’d be seriously pissed off if someone abruptly dumped me without explanation, then contacted me 6 months later to offer the explanation but wasn’t actually saying they were substantively wrong.

        As a self-check, visualize how you would like this conversation to go, best-case-scenario. Then play out a few versions where your friend’s response is not all zen and forgiving. Which is more likely? Is the risk of the awful for all worth the benefit of (maybe) assuaging your conscience a little?

        1. Thanks for your advice human, xenu01, and alphakitty! This community really is the best.

          I guess I really didn’t word my original question well, and need to watch that when/if I contact her. To be clear, I regret the way I handled it, and have also recently come to realize that it wasn’t necessary at all. At the time, she had done (or not done) several things that hurt or upset me, but I was so overwhelmed by everything else going on in my life that I just didn’t have the spoons to be able to deal with one more difficult thing. So instead of talking it out with her and trying to preserve our friendship, I just cut her off. I did explain to her why at the time then wished her well, no hard feelings, it’s just not working, etc., then rationalized it to myself afterwards.

          Then friend #2 did many of the same things later, but by then the rest of my life had calmed down enough that I was able to talk everything out with him, and so we’ve remained friends. This has now made me look back and realize that I could have / should have worked things out with friend #1 instead of walking away. I miss her, and in an ideal world would like to be friends – or at least friendly – again (i.e., I’m not just looking to assuage my conscience). But I recognize that this is completely her decision at this point, not mine, which is why I made the comment above about “no assumptions of anything further”.

          Thanks again!

          1. Hey, nothing wrong with throwing a “hey, I miss talking to you- would you be open to hanging out sometime?” into the aether! Didn’t mean to be so negative, btw. I truly and sincerely wish you luck.

          2. Hey, so I texted said friend a couple days ago and told her what I said here. Last night we met up and caught up again. She wasn’t angry at all – just glad we were back in each other’s lives again. I’m so relieved. Yay!!

            Many thanks, xenu01, softestbullet, and everyone else who offered advice here!

      4. I was the receiver of a series of emails from my best friends, detailing how terrible I am and how we are no longer friends at all, after seven years. Things weren’t great between us towards the end, and they were actually really gaslighty and abusive in some ways. Even acknowledging that and having processed that they were terrible, if I got a sincere apology from them now (almost two years later), I would probably forgive them. I don’t think we could be close again, but I’d at least be willing to talk.

        If you’ve changed your mind, go ahead and contact your friend in a low-pressure way and let her decide if she wants to get into this with you.

  15. After 17 years of friendship, my bestie dumped me cold after she got married. I wasn’t thrilled that she pushed me aside for him, I wanted to talk about it, and she didn’t. In a big way. I sent cards, a pathetic begging letter, no response. I cry from time to time from the sheer agony of it all almost a decade later. I will never know what she thinks happened to our friendship and why she cut me off. I know her spouse didn’t care for me and she was very set on getting married to this man.

    I hope you find the comfort you crave. Jedi hugs. It’s gonna be tough for a while.

    1. Exactly the same thing happened to me, but it was just two years ago. I’m still having a hard time getting through it, but it’s comforting to know I’m not alone.

      1. You are not alone. I send you Jedi hugs, too. It still gets me right in the heart and I’m coming up on ten years of radio silence.

  16. #333: I have to say, this is the main reason I’m afraid of trying to publish anything I’ve written. I don’t need everyone I’ve ever known in my life coming out of the woodwork and complaining.

    Anyway, about ten years ago, I had to cut someone out of my life, in my case it was a toxic family member. I explained, over and over and over again, why I no longer wanted her in my life, and yet she still kept demanding an explanation. I kept trying to make her understand, because it seemed like the decent thing to do and I didn’t want to be a jerk by leaving her hanging, until finally I realized that she was manipulating me into maintaining contact with her after I had explicitly told her I wanted no more contact.

    I’m NOT saying this is what LW#333 is doing, not for a second. It sounds to me like the friend just doesn’t want to explain. The point is, coming from the other side of the situation, the kindest thing to do is leave him alone if that’s what he wants.

  17. #333, you’re telling yourself a lie I think most of us have told ourselves at some point: that if you just understood wtf happened, you could move on; your problem is the way it happened, because all this wondering deprives you of closure.

    In fact, it’s the lie denying you closure. Because even if you understood wtf happened, you are not still likely to *agree* with it. Because, as another commenter said, you and he have a very different narrative about your friendship… as evidenced by his actions. If he shared your narrative, presumably he wouldn’t have done that.

    The way to get closure is to accept the breakup AND that you will never understand AND that even if you understood you wouldn’t agree as fact. (Closure isn’t the same as “all better, no more pain” … It’s just recognition that that’s part of your past, no longer subject to shaping by your actions).

    It sucks — I had a relative who misinterpreted one line in an email in the context of months of willing help. I explained what I’d meant, apologized for saying something subject to that misconstruction. He said yeah right, he KNEW what I really meant (ie his misconstruction). I’ve been dead to him since. His wife coldly refuses to talk to another relative, who has no idea what she did. Some people are just like that.

    1. Agreed! Mr.Blake and I had roommates (another married couple) that we enjoyed a shortish, but very close, friendship with before moving in together. Over the course of choosing a living space and the first few months in it, our friendship plunged from the equator to Antarctica – culminating in a series of FEELINGSNOTES written back & forth (we were all pretty bad at “face to face confrontation”) and one Big Talk wherein they announced that we were totally different than the people they thought we were, and that they couldn’t, in good conscience, continue to associate with us.

      Mr.Blake and I were crushed by the loss of what seemed like such a good, solid friendship. It also was (for other reasons) the tip of an iceberg of Unfortunate Events that year. We kept wondering what we did wrong, what we could have done differently to preserve the friendship, etc. etc…

      Eventually, we had to come to the understanding that our roommates were human, and had broken and hurtful places in their history, sore spots in their hearts, just like we did. They had their own version of reality (just like we did), and in the lens they saw the world through, we were Betrayers and Bad People. No amount of explaining or apologizing would change that, and any attempt to do so came across as manipulation to them. We had to accept that we’d unwittingly crossed a boundary or tripped a wire somewhere, and that their reaction to it was no longer our responsibility.

      Am I still hurt and angry about it? You bet your ass I am. Do I wish they’d just told us something was wrong? Absolutely. But there’s nothing I can do about it; and meanwhile, there are friends around us who love us for the people we are, and who we can trust to speak up if something’s wrong. Some people are, indeed, just like that.

    2. This may be the single most helpful thing I’ve read here, and I’ve been reading a damn lot of archives and levelling up so fast I’m due for some bonus points soon (by which I mean candy). I stumbled onto CA via the creep posts and had a long these are my people! few hours reading, which has become many, many days of archive trawling and a very terrible, too long letter sent (and hopefully ignored–that was a crap letter and I didn’t know what I was actually trying to ask).

      My best friends dumped me after seven years of friendship almost two years ago*. It’s been eating away at me since then. They took my “I need a break from you for a few weeks because this is not okay” and made it a permanent thing against my wishes, and I guess I’ve been stuck in a loop of WHYYYYY WHY WHY DID YOU WHY BUT WHY NO I WAS JUSTIFIABLY ANGRY WHY DID YOU DO THAT?! Which. Not helpful.

      Thank you. You have clarified my whole brains just now. I won’t ever know. Even if I did they’d still be wrong. Even if I did, they’d still be wrong! Because they’re wrong. Oh man. This is so good for me. Thank you.

      *(The context: they wanted me to come up for Thanksgiving, but after I’d arranged to do so told me they didn’t actually want me there on black Friday because they had a date planned, so if I could just leave them alone one of the three days I could visit, that’d be awesome. I said no and asked to process on my own, after years of similar tactics and sometimes bonus gaslighting from them.)

      1. Putting this together with your comment on the other thread, I think the other part of your closure can come from “I deserve better than the way they treated me, anyway!!” Because you do.

        1. You are amazing and I would send you flowers. (I’ve been building up to that part of the closure for a while–I AM pretty fucking great. They were some of the first people to recognise that, so I felt like I owed them my awesomeness, but it is independent of them. It is!)

  18. Wish I could read LW #333’s poems. If only we could ensure that the people we write about never stumble upon this site so there’d be no need for anonymity. 🙂

    Anyway. Here’s a good poem for both LWs:

    by Elizabeth Bishop

    The art of losing isn’t hard to master;
    so many things seem filled with the intent
    to be lost that their loss is no disaster,

    Lose something every day. Accept the fluster
    of lost door keys, the hour badly spent.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    Then practice losing farther, losing faster:
    places, and names, and where it was you meant
    to travel. None of these will bring disaster.

    I lost my mother’s watch. And look! my last, or
    next-to-last, of three beloved houses went.
    The art of losing isn’t hard to master.

    I lost two cities, lovely ones. And, vaster,
    some realms I owned, two rivers, a continent.
    I miss them, but it wasn’t a disaster.

    – Even losing you (the joking voice, a gesture
    I love) I shan’t have lied. It’s evident
    the art of losing’s not too hard to master
    though it may look like (Write it!) like a disaster.

  19. Oh god LW1 I have a story really simliar to yours. In my case also my friend misinterpreted something I said and decided that she didn’t want to have anything to do with me after that.

    Good difference: in my case it wasn’t such an incredibly close friend, this was more a friend of a friend.

    Bad difference: instead of wondering about whether or not to say something I went full on into attempting to argue her into liking me again. Stupid stupid stupid idea, don’t do it: instead of a weird uncomfortable breakup you’ll likely (and I did) get a full-on angry breakup instead.

  20. “If the person says “No thanks” say “Ok, had to ask” and don’t bring it up again.*”

    Where does the asterisk lead? You’re killing me here. What if the footnote changes EVERYTHING?

    …I’m going to have a little lie-down now.

  21. I don’t have any poetry to add to the collection, which I’ve enjoyed. I do add my sympathy. I was friend-dumped a couple of times that really stood out, and both were pretty traumatic. But it took me awhile to remember them because they were quite awhile ago.

    The first time was in maybe 6th grade. My childhood best friend lived a few houses down from me, and one day she got mad at me. I think it might have been because for the first time she was GM for our tiny D&D group, and I refused to enter a room in the dungeon, which she felt wasn’t an option. She stopped talking to me and started hanging out with the other neighborhood kids in our age group who had decided to single me out for bullying. I don’t really know what inspired them, and I had a hard time at first understanding that they were really trying to be mean and hurt me. The torment was at home and in school, and it didn’t really stop until we all progressed to middle school. Their clique was diluted by entering a much larger pool of kids, and maybe they got bored with the game, again I dunno. Anyway, my friend had hung out with them occasionally before, but joined them full time, doubtless entering the fun of badmouthing me. After a while (months maybe? I don’t really remember), I guess her mad wore out, because she came back to playing with me as if nothing had ever happened. We were kids, and I certainly didn’t know how to talk about it. I accepted her resumed friendship but never trusted her again, and we were never quite as close as before.

    The second time I was in Peace Corps in Central America. I became friends with a boy who was about my age and was crushing on him a little bit. We enjoyed each others’ company and hung out quite a bit. He was related to my host family, and much of the extended family hung out at our place. Anyway, I said something once that offended him, and he got into a huge snit. Stopped talking to me, ignored me, etc. At first I thought it was pretty funny and pointed it out to my host mother for a laugh. But it went on and on, and at least one other cousin joined him in the boycott. Since they were always around our place, it was always in my face, and very awkward and uncomfortable for me. I tried to apologize and discuss the situation, but no luck. It went on for a few months, and it was the most isolated and lonely time for me. I was so low in spirits, that my immune system became depressed, and the smallest cuts and insect bites got infected. And then one day, he was over his snit and started talking to me again as if nothing had happened. By that time, I was upset and unhappy. Again, betrayed and not trusting, but willing to be socially polite. Another friendship gone for reasons I didn’t understand.

    In both cases, something minor I said or did apparently triggered the “you are dead to me” treatment, but probably involved something much larger. In both cases, there really wasn’t anything I could do to make it better. In both cases, the person got over it, but the damage was done, and we weren’t friends anymore, though I was perfectly willing to be amiable once they returned. I wasn’t willing to pretend nothing had happened. They never really explained, we never reached any sort of understanding, and those relationships faded after they resumed because I wasn’t able to trust them and didn’t know what might set them off in the future.

    And I have friend-dumped at least one person, though I don’t think he knows or cares. He was roommate with my best friend while they were in grad school. During his last weeks around the time he was graduating, he was really stressed out and took it out on her. He used his intimate knowledge gained from their years of close friendship to say the most hurtful destructive things he could think of to attack her where she was most vulnerable and painful when they were in a fight. I consider that abuse of trust unforgivable. My friend has forgiven him, and they continue to be friends. I’m happy to have nothing to do with him. Since we’ve never lived in the same city or state, it’s really a mental gesture more than anything, making sure I don’t keep in touch with someone who’s proven to be toxic.

    All you can do is grieve for your loss. Give it time and gentleness. Make good art.

  22. #333: I think the new woman in his life could be a big reason why he’s distancing himself from you. You’re very close, and maybe those feelings couldn’t exist for him in the same world as his feelings for his new woman. It’s not you, it’s him, so let him be.

  23. This Canadian poet Roy Kiyooka wrote the most beautiful book of poem called “Pear Tree Pomes”. This is my favorite one from the book:

    just the other day i ate up the last bowlful of

    your preserved pears and wasn’t it just the day before
    ‘yesterday’ we stood in the back-alley looking up
    at its array of white blossoms and under our breath say
    how lucky we are to find such a splendid clapboard
    house with its own tall pear tree . eight brimfilld years
    spoke to me as i put the last sliver in my mouth and
    suckt up all the sweet pear juice . from here on in i’ll
    have to go it alone if i’m to compost another spring .
    i’ll miss your preserved pears your paring knife and son .

    p/s there’s a dozen pears rotting on top of the camper

  24. LW 333, I’m actually not sure I agree with the Captain’s assessment that it wasn’t about that one poem. A few people have brought up the idea of different narratives, and it kind of reads to me like you’d each created your post-lover friendship on your own narrative of how that went down, and maybe that poem – or all those poems – showed him that yours was very different to his. And he couldn’t hack that. And maybe, if you saw his narrative laid out the same way, you couldn’t hack it either – you’d want to say “but it didn’t happen like that, but that wasn’t what I meant, but you’ve exaggerated the way I acted, but you’ve exaggerated the way you reacted”. Which it sounds like was pretty much what he had to say in response to the poem? I know you say it wasn’t about him, but if you wrote in great detail about the anguish and pain you suffered, and part of his narrative involves “it was painful for both of us but it wasn’t that big a deal to either of us” – then yeah, that’s about him.

    Here’s my narrative: I had a girlfriend who I believed was my soulmate, and she met someone else and started going out with him and then retroactively claimed we had never really been in a relationship, just friends experimenting. Which meant that I was the wrong, unfair, selfish one if I didn’t want to hear about the boyfriend in detail, if I wasn’t happy for her – and of course, as far as he knew I was the jealous friend who had no right to get involved.

    I am no longer in touch with her (it’s been fifteen years!) and I don’t think about it much at all – in fact I’m ridiculously happy with my lovely long term partner – but I have gradually come to a realisation that I’m a little ashamed of: I need her to be the villain. The story of those years, in my head, is about how she Done Me Wrong – even with an adult retrospective enabling me to realise that I behaved badly (I could have filled a bingo card with all the things CA says not to do) – even though I think of it seldom and with little bitterness. In the narrative of my life, I don’t want to hear from her again – I never wanted to try and be friends, although she tried once or twice after the initial silence – not because I hate her or because I even care all that much, but because I’m not interested in reconciling our narratives. When I tell the story of my life, she’s the villain for a small portion of a few months of it, and then I move on to everything else. I don’t want her trying to prove me otherwise.

    And to be honest I don’t think any of that, true or otherwise, changes the answer the Captain gave you – let it go. Grieve. It might be about narratives or it might be about something completely different like a sudden and never before acknowledged jealousy of your prodigious poetic ability. The second one wouldn’t mean you shouldn’t have written about your feelings, and neither does the first. If you feel strongly that the poetry was instrumental in him cutting you off, here’s one version of why that might have happened. Or not. Sometimes we don’t get to find out.

  25. I don’t have much to say, but a lot of these poems have just shook me and left me gasping, so I’m leaving the one I always read when I’m hurting in hopes that someone else will love it too.

    I Have Got To Stop Loving You

    So I have killed my black goat.
    His kidney floats in a bowl,
    a beige, flat fish, around whom parasites, slices of lemon,
    break through the surface of hot broth, then sink below,
    as I bend, face down in the steam, breathing in.
    I hear this will cure anything.

    When I am finished, I walk up to him.
    He hangs from a short wooden post,
    tongue stuck out of his mouth,
    tasting the hay flavored air.
    A bib of flies gathers at his throat
    and further down, where he is open
    and bare of all his organs,
    I put my hand in, stroke him once,
    then taking it out, look at the sky.
    The storm clouds there break open
    and raindrops, yellow as black cats’ eyes, come down
    each a tiny river, hateful and alone.

    Wishing I could get out of this alive, I hug myself.
    It is hard to remember if he suffered much.


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