Theoretical You by Lisa Summe

Back before you existed to me,

before I kissed you up

against a wall in winter,

and our knees touched for the first time,

before we took off our socks—

most intimate of intimate—

you existed to me in theory,

in childhood games where I was the prince

and you needed rescue,

in my journals—drawings of me

and a cookie cutter girl, general you,

future you—in the smallest creatures—

the crickets that kept me up at night,

heat of summer comforting me

as it rested on my chest,

and in our littlest bones—

inner ear, not for listening, but for balance—

by which I mean you

were an idea I believed in the potential of,

went looking for, found on the first day

of graduate school in Cincinnati,

a nod in the hallway so natural

it almost went unnoticed,

like how most flowers open at just the right time,

when the season accepts and protects them,

how even without brains they understand

what frost feels like, know to close themselves up

before they get hurt. If I were a flower,

if I opened in winter, got bit by the cold,

I’d open again and again, repeat my mistake,

because that’s how I found you, because this

is how I love you, because I couldn’t appreciate the sun

until someone left me out in the cold.

Lisa Summe
Lisa Summe was born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, and is a graduate of Virginia Tech’s MFA program. She is the Resources Manager for VIDA: Women in Literary Arts and a poetry editor for Pittsburgh Poetry Review. Her poems have appeared in The Tampa Review, Smartish Pace, Lambda Literary, Salt Hill, Waxwing, and elsewhere. She currently lives in Pittsburgh, PA.