a letter to those who have loved me.

we are built by many things {a letter to the ghosts of love}

Dear love,

It can be said that we are built by many things. Biology and lineage. Grit and moonlight and ocean stone. By fire and water and air. By the lessons of the grandmothers and the pounding of blood through veins and the very first break. The way it felt when you learned the truth of boundary and by the day you stood there and knew nothing could every be the same.  

Yes – it can be said that we are built by many, many things.

But all of these things are really, at the core, one thing.

Love.

Love with its many faces and songs. Healthy and strong and damaging and untrue. Bloodlines and lust. That which fills and the way it empties us to the solid truth of ourselves. It is held in hands and raised high to the sky.  And it is tucked in old wooden boxes and buried – either in the earth or in the silent unspoken aches. It’s in the slick skin on skin and breath on breath and the want that slices you wide open. And it’s in arms holding child and holding open the door for a stranger and holding the sign that demands change. Everything and everywhere. Under and over and through.

And yes, I have been built by love.

So to love. To all of it, of course, but tonight it is to the love of desire and romance and partnership bonds that the words call.

To the ghosts of love past. And love present. And love yet to come, or to come again, or to be glimpsed from across a room and yet never touched. To the love that crosses lifetimes or that lives between the lines. To the forevers and the brief chapters and the just right nows. To the love that is the warm body in bed that will never be touched again but that saves your life. To the loves that have left brands on my skin and to the loves that made a rough cut across the heavy red muscle of my heart. To the spaces of betrayal and betrayed and to the redemption that knits them together. To all of my loves, those found in these lines and all the rest. In the harsh grace and tender brutality and the spaces in between.

This is for all of you.


To the one who showed me that poetry and lust can come alive in the same dark room. Who broke down my conceptions of the very definitions of love that I had taken to be unbendable truth. Thank you for making it all fluid and open. From you I learned that being seen in both body and mind can be the catalyst for a most delightful spontaneous combustion. This forever changed my knowing of my own needs.

To the one who knew to open my heart by first opening my body. Who took arms folded across heart and gently, one at a time, eased them – and me – wide open. You taught me that sometimes almost strangers can know us better than we know ourselves. We worked so hard for so long. Walking away is a small, quiet sadness I will hold inside of myself always.

To the love who taught me what it is to love in my mother tongue. For the gift of a loving that did not need translation. Timeless and spacious and free. It is groundwater and poetry. It is cigar boxes and seashells. It is claiming my own name and knowing it was always, somehow, known by you. It is shared memory, as mysterious and mystical as real and true. Your love brought me to my knees, and even now – in its long-gone-yet-never-leaves way – it is the grace that saves me.

To the lover that stood at the end of the aisle. Where you go, I will go. Together we created life. I will not know the feel of your hand on mine when we are 80 years old, and despite the rest this will always be an ache for which no words exist. To the night that I should have answered your call. I did not. That guilt has carved it's signature in my bones. Our new modern family is deep grace and sharp pain intermingled in a way that will never fully untangle.  It is also the greatest gift and more than I think I sometimes deserve. Because of you I long feared I would never again be able to promise another forever.

To the love who taught me otherwise. Who rekindled dull cynicism into a flame of hope. You gave me back future and then hard won tears. I still believe in lucky pennies and the space between start and finish and ways the universe sometimes whispers and asks to be heard. There will always be a light in the dark for you. You are my knowing of what it is to come home.

To the boy who took from me in that basement room. I will not call you lover. That is a title you never deserved. I know what it is to watch a spirit bleed from the ceiling. I know what it is to crawl up the stairs and cry in silence while everyone sleeps. I forgive you. I give you back the shame. I finally learned it was never mine to carry. In the aftermath of your choices, I found the choice to trust myself, and that is a loving of the deepest kind.

To the lover who gave new meaning to the term my first. And second and third. Thank you. I did not know my body could do that. Or that. Or that. We were together during a period of unmatched intensity. It was all fire and ashes and tears and grief. Sometimes it’s the opposite of easy that creates the most lasting of bonds. You will always own a part of my heart.

To the lover who deserved much more kindness than I was able to give. I am so sorry. My shame was greater than my desire to do the right thing.

To the one who already belonged to somebody else. Two things. 1. If I could have, I would have pulled you into a dark corner, pressed you against that wall, and kissed you until you forgot you had ever been kissed before. 2. As it was, just watching your lips while you smoked nearly took me out.

To the love who punched a hole in the glass door of the college dorm. You were my first betrayal. My first understanding that my actions could bring bloodshed. It took me years and years more to finally find the integrity that lived inside my bones. I am eternally sorry it was too late for you.

To the one who was the catalyst for all that was to come after. I remember how your thumb felt making slow circles on my palm. It was our only physical contact and yet possibly the most erotic thing that I had ever felt. I had no idea that this would be the irrevocable moment on which all the rest would hinge and that within six months I would burn my entire life to the ground and stand in the ashes. If I had known would I still have done what I did? Yes. There could have been no other way because there was no other way.

To the almost lover. I did not show up because I knew I would fall too fast. I thought there could be no future because you were there and I was here. I was afraid. I was not brave enough to take what could be taken. Every time I see your face I wonder what might have been.

To the one I loved in a secret fumbling darkness. To the world it was wrong. Your lips were a gift that helped me remember myself. You are still the best kisser of all the kissers I have ever kissed. Yeah. Exactly. Thank you.

To the maybe one day, the possibility, the potential. You are unlike anyone else. I am not sure yet if that is a good thing, or a sign I should run the other way. We never know, do we? But we leap anyway, we fall regardless. I wonder if you’ll still be there when I land.

To the love that is my deepest truth. To the love that was hardest won and requires a most tenacious and tender commitment. To the love that always pulls between the wild and the tame. To the love that has built and broken in equal measure. Who has learned her integrity in the shadows and howled at the moon and gone to the ground and burned into the fire and carried herself into the light. This is the love of self and the one that makes space for all the others. Every single other love is held inside of this.

To the love that I still look for. Do you still exist? Did I dream you? Will you find me? I do not know. But I dream of you; on sleepless nights when only the moon is awake. You; a mysterious alchemy of imagination and memory. You; a mixture of grit and starshine. Of magical words and solid ground. A love stays and sustains, that waxes and wanes, and yet still keeps rising with a fierce and untamable light.

In the end, I will wait only for you. There is nothing else, really, I could ever do but that.

{this was written, in bits and pieces, over the course of a few years. Just a file on my desktop that I added to, and tweaked and changed as new stories were ready to be told, or as the details of old stories morphed and blurred and altered – as old stories are wont to do. I had not revisited it in almost a year.   And in the end, the important thing to know is this. There was indeed another love coming – at the end of the ache and on the heels of great loss. And I had no idea, we never do. And this love, she is grit and starshine. Bluegrass voice and guitar plucking fingers and downtown street smarts. Strong and soft and gentlewild. She calms my restless and stills my heart and has room for my expansion.

And I do not know now, any more than I knew with all those who came before, how this story goes or ends or even what the beginning is, really.  But I do know this – that it took all of what came before to lead me to this now and all of the nows that came before and all that will come.

And that knowledge is also a kind of freedom and truth, and yes – a kind of love,

love, jeanette leblanc

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