“WE TELL STORIES” by Susan Hayden

Stories replace people and so the poem begins.
No one wins as the year nearly ends
and words fill in for bodies in the arc of the night
where, just days ago, the light in your eyes
–though relegated to pilot—
was directed by our constancy.
I’ve learned since then that a single heavy thread
won’t hold the hammock to the tree
and that you and me as jagged tapestry
could only be “us” when we shared the kind of  honesty
that would at once bond and liberate.
Anything else: second-rate, imprisonment.
If I told someone our story the “easy” way,
I would say: It was a gift exchange.
I believed in your ability to soar and encouraged you
to be more.
Be More.
You gave me permission to claim and fill the space,
face things head-on,
without trying to control in your man – role.
During those final talks
it was my intention to demolish all roadblocks
not knowing if it would set us free
or keep things intact.
Clearly I mistook our pact for coming clean
and staying current.
Now we tell stories,
file emotions in categories
and yet, how quickly we forget,
muscle memory is encoded; declarative.
This is my narrative, a shelter of sentences
to magnify the void between us where the truth must lie.
The truth must lie.
I will never comprehend the absolute end
of this love.
And how I’ve been pegged as too far above you
in size and scale, in place and time;
in terms of worthiness.
If I told someone our story the “hard” way,
I would say: Questions still remain
as we each maintain our silence.
Where did it go, the faith in the leap?
The hand that reached for mine in sleep?
I never planned to throw you a map toward a place
where you’d doubt the dreams you’d think
but didn’t speak.
You were the other side of my heart;
we spent half the week together.
And in the dark, skin on skin,
my back arched, me leaning in,
you’d whisper:  “I’ve missed you.”
Missed you.
True, from our first night in that Mexican bar
we were star-crossed, lost in grief-recovery
and in the discovery of what Bruce Lee called
“a friendship caught on fire.”
I will forever admire your daring to think
you had a chance at me—and be right.
“Fight for this,” I would later insist
but your ideas were simplistic
and you didn’t even know what that meant.
So began our descent into class struggle,
unclear dreams, affluenza and loss–
the central themes in this autobiography:
a coin-toss of trust, willingness,
and then unwillingness to emerge.
Two lives converge, opposites attract,
contract, protract, until the epilogue–
where the differences outweigh.
“Out of my league,” were the very words
you’d say to describe me.
And now you are my story, the one where we both lose.
You don’t get to choose which version is true.
How I tell it is up to me.
How you tell it is up to you.
Just remember. There were times when I was under you.
Under you.
And I do wonder about the vanish and dissolve,
the resolve into estrangement.
I could never have predicted that we would both mislead,
have to mind-read, and at last, bail-out
in impasse.
Stories replace people
but the telling is a shape-shifter:
You’re a black-hearted-grifter; a tenderloin steak.
the sweet spot of my life; a total mistake;
a sk8er boi with the half-devil/half-angel tattoo;
that stoner from high school who touched me and then said,
“Screw you.”
Good, bad, loved or hated,
depending on my mood or the day it’s related..
You see
the listener would only know the parts I chose
to convey;
I wouldn’t mention how you’d say,
“Relationships are temporary,”
something you told me early on,
when we each fell hard into the other’s soul,
making permanent imprints.
And that for you, close relations made finite stints —
creating this great divide, that lonely place
where you numb and hide the pain inside.
When you’d speak these truths you owned
about your past
and your deep belief that nothing lasts,
it was my misfortune to have not believed you
or rather,
to believe I’d be the exception.
The exception.
Now it’s perception I am left with,
which will be of my own making.
Partaking is what paves the path to where I am headed,
for I have not regretted a page of this.
I still have the faith in the leap
and yes, sometimes I reach for you in sleep,
but there’s a story in the bed now, not a man.
Where did you go?
Only you know.
© 2011


  1. lkthayer · January 11, 2011

    You are a brilliant poet & story teller Susan, love this, bravo!! 🙂

  2. Susan Hayden · January 11, 2011

    You are an inspiration yourself, sweet beauty. Thankyou 4 the squeeze ❤

  3. stevie · January 11, 2011

    For some reason
    my first response was rejected or did not appear.
    “This is my narrative, a shelter of sentences
    to magnify the void between us where the truth must lie.”
    Wow what a truthful emotional honest inspired line.
    I love this poem so much.It is touching heart breaking emotional and honest.
    Unfortunately I have never been with one a beautiful a soul as you on my life journey.It is not just good but so honest.
    It has a physical presence it occupies a space.
    “There is a story in the bed next to me where there use to be a man”
    Where there use to be you.The way it us to be with you.
    The breaking each others hearts. The pain the not knowing what the other feels. This is a sweet sad deep inspiring poem
    I love it and it comes out of a beautiful heart
    of Susan who so sweet I think
    she melts some of my cynicism and anger.I love this poem.
    Stevie K
    I need more than one reading I need many
    and layers keep unfolding.
    As you shed the layers of yourself and become naked in flight in transition.
    This doe snot go into sentimentality but keeps it clean and intense.

  4. peter Hastings · January 11, 2011

    many wonderful and honest thoughts beautifully expressed. Of course, there are some hammocks that are free standing, but I never really liked them.

  5. stevie · January 12, 2011

    Indulge me one more

    One part I responded to in the e mail that was lost is this.
    Where Susan says
    he says to he “relationships are temporary”
    to me this is the thought of a child
    an immature concept
    it is basing something on feelings
    that may change
    but in relationship and love
    there is choice and comittment
    that she was willing to make
    that he was not.
    I find the view that nothing last very juvenile
    and i believe one deserves better than this.
    It reminds me where the bible says
    When I was a child
    I spoke as a child but now
    I must put away childish things.
    A mature real love is based on devotion
    strength not feelins alone
    for anythng to be solid
    there must be choice and a decision.
    The poem implies this beautfully.
    I could go on and on these are just things that strike me.
    The growth as a being that this poem reveals
    is astonishing
    but in life we make mistakes
    we lern from them hopefully
    and we carry on
    we have loss and heartache
    and we go forward
    with wounds sometimes
    but with life and purpose
    and to make a contribution
    to life and the planet in our own way.
    I love this poem.It captures a lot to me.

  6. Susan Hayden · January 12, 2011

    Thank you Stevie, Pete + Lisa for understanding this piece. It was the hardest poem for me to write ❤

  7. Ruth · January 12, 2011

    Love this poem, and all your others! You are a true original, an amazing writer of mood…I swear, they broke the mold after they made you. xox

  8. htsjr · January 12, 2011

    A masterpiece from my terrific breakup sponsee. The idea of stories replacing people is compelling because it describes a gulf and void of the heart and soul that that is doubly challenging as those replaced continue to occupy space and time in a world that is at once present and closed to us. What we discover in the shape-shifting of reality is that we knew far less about another and our relationship to another than we believed. Bravo, Susan. Well done.

  9. Susan Hayden · January 12, 2011

    I deeply appreciate the response(s) to this poem ❤

  10. Fred Whitlock · January 12, 2011

    This poem just blows me away. I have to be honest – that I have been on both sides of this poem. Luckily, I have learned the hard way – how to be honest, present and fully conscious in a relationship.

  11. Fred Whitlock · January 13, 2011

    Reread again a few times and it still grabs me and has all the power of the first reading. You have captured the light and the shadow side of a relationship so very well. I like the way this poem is exploring the projections, asking why does fear from the past have such a hold in the present moment, and guestioning why does someone have a great need of an exit door in the middle of a a wonderful love affair.

    • Susan Hayden · January 13, 2011

      Wow Fred–I am SO TOUCHED by your feedback–thank you so much !!

  12. robert romanos · January 14, 2011

    wow… what a beautiful poem… (intimacy)

    the struggle to let go and give yourself completely… hard for some… impossible for others…

    stories replace people…

    • Susan Hayden · January 14, 2011

      Yes they do–but not us. We show up for those we love..

  13. shannon · January 14, 2011

    For daring to think you had a chance at me / and be right.

    Ahh! That made my heart ache. So vivid. I felt whirled in the romance and pain.

    Beautiful, Susan.


  14. Susan Hayden · January 14, 2011

    We are whirly girls, aren’t we? i love you, S.E. Soon we will burn it down in Soho w/Mason serenading us in the background.

  15. Susan · January 15, 2011

    I am so glad I read this right away…Your power has a poet has exploded exponentially, love. The emotion and structure, the prudent use of rhyme, the rhythms…so much like a relationship itself…And as someone who loves you desperately, as much information as an hour-long phone call.
    It is a blessed thing, when our art provides the catharsis we need to move on…
    Loving you…sus

    • Susan Hayden · January 16, 2011

      Oh my goodness–that is high praise coming from you. Wow.

  16. RickT · January 18, 2011

    This is so powerful, so personal and yet universal. But the imagary of words replacing people is indelible. You write with such incredible power, I am in awe.

    • RickT · January 18, 2011

      oh, great. I didn’t proofread! Did I say ImagAry?

  17. Susan Hayden · January 19, 2011

    HIGH PRAISE from Rick Tulsky, journalist extraordinaire. Thank you for taking the time to read and respond. xo/sh

  18. Chris M. Allport · January 20, 2011

    Susan, your poetry is crafted of the highest artistic level of expressionism. Meaningful, poignant, relevant, it transcends the typical beatnik / coffee house poetry – mostly only relevant to its creator and a handful of faithful others – into a river flowing, nurturing its banks with richness of universal human meaning.

    If anyone in this world should wonder what it means to be a human, they should read Hayden. Or listen with open heart, to a humanistic eloquence, that shall soar above sempre tiempo (all of time), because those words are the nutrients, suspended in the elastic, viscous plasma of a universal meaning of life.

  19. Susan Hayden · January 20, 2011

    I am breathless! Thank you from the deepest place in my heart, Chris ❤

  20. joy · January 21, 2011

    This is such a raw and powerful poem. But also sly, in part — the “affluenza” and painful understanding of how story replaces the person. Wow, wow,wow.
    You go, girl!

  21. Mason Allport · January 22, 2011

    Good job mom!! 🙂

  22. Susan Hayden · February 2, 2011

    Thanks, Mace ❤

  23. Pattie Lee Pierce · February 2, 2011

    This poem, like all of Susan’s work, reveals brilliance, depth, heart & soul. It is inspired & inspiring. I love, love , LOVE it. Bravo, beautiful!!!
    PLP/Ava of “the patrol”

  24. Susan Hayden · February 3, 2011

    Wow thank you AVA–for appreciating the truth, for always ❤

  25. stevie · February 11, 2011

    AS i read this poem again.It brings up so many things.
    Where do friendships go where do relationships unravel?
    It calls out to me it asks in beckons.
    Where does something that is so full of life and energy and promise evaporate
    in the world that is so hard to find an anchor in?
    Where is their genuine authenticity?
    Where a word is a word and not something else..Where a meaning is where it exists in time and space.
    How reliable is that.
    Am I crating my own story by my own thoughts and projections?
    Do I create you?
    How many nights when the world os asleep do i awaken with the stark realization of the fact that we are alone
    and relationship is the only bridge the only thread that ties any meaning and sweetness softness into anything. How easily we lose our hearts and become dead souls walking corpses? How do we get to a point when we have no energy to tell a story.
    As i re read this poem of yours for the who knows what time I lose count
    these questions and observations pop out at me.
    Where you say there is a story in the bed now and it implies where there
    use to be you
    where there use to be us
    it brings out many of the unloved moments in life and how often we never resolve issues or let them sit and ferment and rot our insides we so seldom wash them clean.
    I love this poem and it opens up many feelings and all the moments we think of one who never knows we care and can never forget there touch upon our lives but we must move on with inner pain and face another day.
    Tank you again for the poem across the night at 4 :30 AM
    The spirit of your poem lives on and thank you and God bless.

    • Susan Hayden · February 12, 2011

      Stevie, Your questions haunt me. I feel completely honored that a poet like you would consider this piece again and again, find new ways of looking at something old. I love you and your enormous spirit. xo/sh

  26. Jerry Garcia · April 26, 2011

    Susan, this poem is as overwhelming on the page as it is when you read it. I hear your breath and power as if I am in the room with you. Strong, personal but poetic, not maudlin, I feel the truth of a relationship going full speed in your phrasing.

    • Susan Hayden · May 4, 2011

      An absolute honor, these words from you, Jerry. Loveyou + thankyou 4 reading ❤

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