Tag Archives: Liz Purvis

Heart Surgery

by Liz Purvis

You will break my heart.
You will break my heart and I will let you.
I will let you crack open
the right atrium from the left,

rend the aorta from the pulmonary valve.
You will tear it all out,
dividing my hearts’ parts, veins in one pile
and arteries in another.

Why will you do this? You were always so good
at carrying things out of my heart.
You never seemed to understand
that putting something in was also important.


It can be summertime in August when the boys come back from war.

by Liz Purvis

It won’t feel like summer until one boy comes back
from arid Middle Eastern mountains,
back to the humid Blue Ridge we both love.
I suppose he’s a man, closer to thirty than fifteen,
both now and when we met.
Though, both now and when we met, I was and am closer
to fifteen than to thirty.

It’s been three years since I started loving you. In spite
of the best kinds of intentions,
I don’t seem to be able to stop. It no longer consumes me, leaves me
in a pile
like so many wrinkled, twice-worn jeans
on the floor. I have, as the cliché would have me say,
moved on.

And yet a picture, hearing your name, happening upon
some gluten-free food that we once made to compensate
for that allergy of yours…
these hit me like the deer that ran
into the side of your truck
one night, as we drove back to your house from the movies.

Physical Contact

by Liz Purvis

They’re sitting on the top of some fucking French mountain
taking pictures of stars. Well, he’s taking pictures of stars.
She’s sitting up against his little Italian car,
leaning into the cold
metal and wondering how it is
that he hasn’t touched her all week.

Not a palm on the small of her back when they pushed
through an alley crowded with street vendors,
or a tanned and freckled arm pulling
her body closer in the dark. Falling asleep
last night, she thought he stretched a hand out for her
to hold and nudged her own, closed tight
around a blanket, closer.
But he rolled back over,
away from her, taking his hand
with him.

On the way up the rough and winding
mountain roads, one hand brushed
against her leg as he shifted
gears, but then moved away
too quickly to be anything
but accidental.

So now they’re on top of this mountain.
He’s taking pictures of stars. She’s leaning
up against the car, staring
at the moon and trying to remember
how it feels to have another’s warmth beside her,
against the cold.

Well Water

by Liz Purvis

Icy from the chill of winter
snow on Blue Ridge mountains…there’s nothing
else that tastes like that. Crisp and sweet,
in a way that’s difficult
to put your finger on.
It would have been nice
if our relationship had been
like that: sweet,

But we weren’t,
you know, we were more
complicated, like sex
on the beach, bloody
mary, or whiskey on ice,
which sounds simple enough
but washes down with a bite that makes you forget
why you chose it in the first place.

Until you get used
to the burn in the back
of your throat, start thinking,
maybe it warms you.

Or maybe we were just
like city water, treated
water…the kind that was once brackish
but, in attempts to cleanse,
to emulate the fresh
taste of quiet streams, has been pumped so full
of complicated,
chemical ingredients,
that the adding
changes, gives it a hard, flat taste.
Like iron,
Or blood.

Blackberries and You

by Liz Purvis

“You and I could not have been simply married lovers. There are so many reasons I can’t count them.”
-James Wright, “The Young Good Man”


I used to like blackberries, once,
when I was very young. At least
that’s what my mother says. My own
memory doesn’t stretch back quite that far.
All that I remember now is childish,
puckered lips at the sour taste
of bursting pustules, the spitting out
of a half-chewed berry.

But I met a one-armed farmer
the other day who said the bramble patch
behind his tobacco field was filled with the sweetest,
largest blackberries that he’d ever seen.

I don’t know why, but I believed him.


The next night I dreamed of blackberries
under a heavy-hanging August moon, and air
that pressed down on my skin, a humid weight
even at night. You were there.

I swung over a splintery, split-rail fence to reach you.
You were standing in the brambles. The jagged wood
scratched sharply at my skin.
Picking mouthfuls of berries below moonlit clouds,
our hands looked streaked with blood.
When I woke, the warm and blue-red tang of them
still clung onto my tongue. And you were gone.

I can’t make up my mind
whether it tasted bitter or sweet.


You and I were never simple:
we were seven years of complicated. I counted
them to see if I could make some sense
of it. Of us.

I couldn’t.
Perhaps if I’d minded the wiser words
of my younger self, the one that said I’d never
go back to one love more than twice…I suppose
this never would have happened,
the back and forth of us.

You said that you stopped trying
to figure us out. I didn’t.
I coddled you at first and then, years later,
not enough. I came whenever you called. You only came
when it was easy, wandering away when you found another
one of my new, sharp edges. You were bitter
when you found I was no longer quite as sweet.

I wish that we could have been
simple. I wanted to write you
this before we ended.
But the truth is that we’ve been done
for a long while now.