Poem of the Week: Neil Hilborn

 

OCD
By Neil Hilborn

The first time I saw her, everything
in my head went quiet. All the tics,
all the constantly refreshing images,
just disappeared. When you have

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
you don’t really get quiet moments.
Even in bed I’m thinking

did I lock the door yes
did I wash my hands yes
did I lock the door yes
did I wash my hands yes

But when I saw her, the only thing
I could think about was the hairpin curve
of her lips or the eyelash on her cheek

the eyelash on her cheek
the eyelash on her cheek.

I knew I had to talk to her.
I asked her out six times.
In thirty seconds. She said yes
after the third one, but none of them
felt right so I had to keep going.

On our first date, I spent more time
organizing my meal by color
than I did eating or talking to her,

but she loved it. She loved
that I had to kiss her goodbye
sixteen times, or twenty-four times

if it was Wednesday. She loved that
it took me forever to walk home
because there are a lot of cracks
in our sidewalk.

When we moved in together,
she said that she felt safe,
like no one would ever rob us
because I definitely locked the door
18 times. I’d always watch her mouth
when she talked when she talked when
she talked when she talked. When she

said she loved me, her mouth would curl up
at the edges. At night, she’d lay in bed
and watch me turn all the lights off and on

and off and on and off and on and off
and on and off. She’d close her eyes
and imagine that the days and nights
were just passing in front of her.

Some mornings, I started kissing her goodbye
but then she’d just leave because
I was making her late for work.

When I stopped in front of a crack in the sidewalk,
she just kept walking. When she said she loved me,
her mouth was a straight line.

She told me I was taking up too much of her
time. Last week she started
sleeping at her mother’s place.

She told me that she shouldn’t
have let me get so attached to her,
that this whole thing was a mistake
but how can it be a mistake

when I don’t have to wash my hands
after I touch her? Love is not a mistake.
It’s killing me that she can run away
from this and I just can’t. I can’t

go out and find someone new
because I always think of her.

Usually, when I obsess over things,
I see germs sneaking into my skin.
I see myself crushed by an endless
succession of cars. She was the first
beautiful thing I ever got stuck on.
I want to wake up every morning
thinking about the way she

holds her steering wheel. How she turns
shower knobs like she opening a safe.
How she blows out candles blows out

candles blows out candles
blows out candles blows out
candles blows out candles
blows out-

now, I just think about who else
is kissing her. I can’t breathe because
he only kisses her once. He doesn’t care
if it’s perfect. I want her back so bad,

I leave the doors unlocked.
I leave the lights on.

 

Hilborn, Neil. Our Numbered Days. Minneapolis: Button Poetry/Exploding Pinecone Press. 2015.

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