Screenshot 2018-08-05 at 8.30.25 PMCheck out my poem “An Instruction Manual to Heartbreak in Three Parts” published by Bone and Ink Press.

An Instruction Manual to Heartbreak in Three Parts

by Ailey O’Toole


I know what you’re thinking, but the question isn’t why I left. It’s, how could either of us have lived like that?

Don’t cut your fingers on stars trying to gather the solar system. No matter how much light you capture for me, I’m not coming back.

When you see me again for the first time, your body will swell with concussive thunder. Don’t bother calling the doctor. It will pass.

Swear that you won’t carry around the scars I left you with like ellipses to a story you know has ended.

Try to look more like living and less like a warning. It’s the only way out.


It is easy in the wake of this to become a waiting room for bones. Know that you are capable of so much more.

When you kiss someone else for the first time, your lips will try to pull my name from hers. Don’t let them.

I will never be your biggest almost. You whole life will be constructed from unfinished bridges. Don’t let this one stop you from starting others.

One day, you will realize that being left behind is the only way to ever truly learn anything. Only after disaster can we be resurrected. You don’t need to be grateful, but please know I’m sorry I had to be the one to teach you.


You will come out the backside of this looking like a map and a handful of teeth. You might have to relearn the meaning of words, consult the encyclopedia to figure out how to be now. The great thing is it’s up to you.

Remember that forgiveness is not a tidy grave. It looks like rotting wood and howling. No one said this would end neatly.

The most important thing to remember is that humans love like water: even if you don’t know what to do with the empty spaces, someone will rinse my name from your mouth until it’s full of hers. This is just part of the cycle.

Moving on will not feel like healing but eventually, you will look back and realize you built the city yourself. This is how you’ll know you made it.

Try not to forget that being with you was the last thing I felt like I could be really good at.

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