I count the number of times I’ve said I love you. Tally
the puppies who were excited to see me with the cat purrs I’ve earned
and add in the sunny days that have soaked into my skin. Instead
of completed checklists, I quantify the pizzas I’ve eaten, the walks
I’ve taken, the oceans I’ve swum in. Here, success
isn’t a job promotion or a clean house but a silence
interrupted by the twittering of nest-makers. I add
in the sum of flowers on the brink of bloom and the rolling green
fields in which I have not resisted the urge to leap and twirl.
Include the number of ice cream flavours I’ve tasted. Fancy
restaurants visited. Libraries frequented. Books read. What matters
is the mountains I’ve climbed, the places I’ve visited. The number of words 
I’ve put on paper, the times I’ve been welcomed
home, the connect-the-dot freckles on my lover’s chest. I weigh
in the songs I’ve learnt by heart, the poems I’ve become
so familiar with that they are now a part of my being. Consider
the friends who’ve called on me in their darkest
hours, the secrets I’ve been entrusted with. I count
my laughter per day, multiply this joy by the times I’ve made my loves
laugh and am met with an infinity of a life well lived.

About the author:

Melissa Sussens (she/her) is a queer South African veterinarian and poet. She placed 2nd in the 2020 New Contrast National Poetry Prize and her work has appeared in many publications, both locally and internationally. A Best of the Net nominee, Melissa has performed at various local poetry events and hosts poetry readings at The Red Wheelbarrow. In addition to doctoring small animals, Sussens is also a teaching assistant for Megan Falley’s writing course, Poems That Don’t Suck. Her debut collection, Slaughterhouse, was published by Karavan Press in 2022. She lives in Cape Town with her spouse and their two dogs. Find her at melissasussens.com or @melissasussens.

Feature image by Pawel Czerwinski on Unsplash