Before you in my previous life I was radioactive I was infectious I was a biohazard a leper a pile of humming bloody meat my liver was a vibrating lump of viscous rot a scarred and scarring hunk of virus I was a hep cat a death-filled hipster a rickety stack of hollow bones and none of this was from needles or burning dust from opioids or jailhouse ink from fucked mouth or ass but simply from being fucked over from being born mostly baked but not quite done from being born with the heart of an elephant that’s been shot with a rifle leaving a bleeding gaping hole where my beating life should be from being born partial and the surgery was a success the surgery patched the perforation the surgery stapled my sternum and attached my artery to itself and also by the way transfused poison into my veins the virus young and virile and ecstatic for such fresh meat the hepatitis seeing a buffet and feasting for two-and-a-half decades while I fattened myself and bathed in bourbon and gave exercise a hearty laugh the hepatitis festered and thrived the hepatitis scratched the days into the walls of my liver like a prisoner waiting for parole the hepatitis seeped into my muscles and tendons into my eyes and teeth into my brain and soul the hepatitis became me

During you I dragged ass I slept at five pm I lived half-days and full nights in bed I ate less I talked less and all the while I cared for my son and pregnant wife I taught high school students I walked the dog and scooped her shit I cleaned the house and washed the dishes I wrote poetry and essays about you I held you in my hand careful not to lose a single you not to damage an atom of you I held you in my hand and absorbed everything you meant the diamond shape of you the tan shade of you the weightless weight of you I wondered if the exhaustion was worth it if the nausea and aches were worth it and then I watched my son watching television I held my palm against my wife’s stomach I looked at the pale raccoon- eyed man in the mirror I saw a man with a healthy reason to break free from the chains of this charred organ I saw a father and husband ready to truly be a father and husband and not just half a man with half a life to live

After you I touched my scarred liver and knew that the bleeding had stopped I held my newborn and danced to jazz I felt complete I felt whole for the first time I danced a free man I danced and lived I lived I live