the first and last love poem

Haydil Henriquez

when dawn has yet to creep up the windowsill,

his name lingers on her shoulder blades

as the time she searched for orion’s belt on his nape.


the inconvenience startles the night,

the creep of the morning.


the day he left she started smoking

her lungs into erosions of graphite,

her chest billows with woe

like the accordion she never learned to play.

all she’s left with are songs she writes for his shadows

& the night’s discontent, sobering sorrow.


how many days must I live without,

your stubborn presence in my empty mouth

how many days must I live without….you.


she first learned to let go at seven,

playing with measuring tapes,

across closet-sized living rooms filled with mischief

& your partner,

your partner

lets go when the distance exceeds room limitations

she learned it hurts the most when you hold on to the body,

& the flimsy yellow strip winds back in place

the metal tip meets your skin,

at the arc where you learned to cup hands,

like your thumbs evolved to hold onto things,

never meant to stay.


I knew a man,

who once was an artist,

maybe not an artist.

I knew a man,

who once was a painter,

sketched me whole during the grey,

like a rising goddess.


I knew a man

who once was a god,

maybe not a god.

I knew a man

who was immortal,

erased him from my contact books,

but his shadows remain.


last poem she wrote to him said

my love, es un artista,

speaks little,

reflects ceaselessly.

doesn’t need a pencil to sketch love

or paint to fill it,

he just makes it.



on their last night together,

they held each other as oxygen

heaved at the upheaval

he yawned,

she reached over his empty black hole–

failed to fill it with her,

too late, he said.

time has never worked in their favor.

her body wasn’t prepared for the weight

bare feet on the steel of the fire escape

drags the nicotine off its sleeve unto her cavern


the skies birthed windstorms the next afternoon.

gulped the cold to feed hung lungs,

drop the ash in the spoiled milk cup,

rusted cinders on cotton linens.

she’s learning not to care,

the winds will walk it away.

she lies on an empty bed, empty.

on their last night together

she decided to let him go– she’s still learning how.


when it’s midnight in Seattle, 

she pretends it was yesterday

she burned her tongue sipping on his sweet presence.

sometimes, she damns the sun for rising, without him

tells herself, she’ll tell him–you should know,

there is no room for you anymore,

in the backs of my mind

I could no longer call home

in the caverns of organs seemingly all too remote

there is no room

for someone

who is not ready to build me.




Haydil Henriquez is an arts educator, cultural advocate, program manager and Bronx-bred poet. She earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology & Education from Swarthmore College in 2014, and has worked with communities across the Diaspora facilitating oral storytelling workshops for youth. Although Haydil does not possess a formal degree in writing, she witnessed the magic of poetry during her formative years in the spoken word community. Published in The Best Teen Writing of 2008, and later receiving honors like the Mahasweta Devi/ Gloria Anzaldúa Creative/Visual/ Performing Arts Award in 2012 from the Intercultural Center at Swarthmore. Haydil then participated in the Poets House Emerging Poets Fellowship with Aracelis Girmay in 2018. Since then she has been published in Cutbank Literary Magazine (University of Montana, 2020) and Rigorous Magazine (2020). Haydil was honored as the inaugural Bronx Poet Laureate in 2021.