When the sign for ‘I love you’ is overused

by Delaney Burk
-After Caitlin Conlon


To sign “I love you”, put up your thumb, index, and pinkie fingers. At the same time, press your middle and ring fingers to your palm. Hold your hand out, palm facing away from you, and move it slightly back and forth.

To sign “I love you”, keep sewing up your gloves. Even when you point out how you just want to replace them. That heavy yard gloves would be better for work and keep your hands warmer. That you’re tired cold, achy fingers. Just because I said it was easier to understand you when you first bought that pair.

To sign “I love you”, don’t get upset with me when I don’t like eating out. Assure the waiter that I wasn’t hungry, and we’ll take it to go. Don’t make fun of me when I end up making up a sandwich or some eggs when I get home because I don’t trust restaurants and because I like seeing you beside me, eating my cold fries while I cook.

To sign “I love you”, let me drive. Even though I go too slowly, and I always leave the seat too far back. Fuck around with the radio before you put your hand on my thigh or play with my hair. Run your thumb over the spot where you say I’m going bald.

To sign “I love you”, talk to me. Make eye contact with me in the mirror when we get ready in the morning. Don’t look longingly at couples holding hands. Gesture broadly and passionately and smile so big that I can’t read your lips. Wait until I’m finished speaking to kiss me. Be okay with leaving the lights on during sex. Make my whole body go red when you tell me that the sounds I made were beautiful. Ignore me when I try to stop your hands, try to stop you from going on. Call me a pussy when I say you’re a sap and insist we go another round before breakfast.

To sign “I love you”, argue with me. Don’t just let me win things. Tell me you wanted to stop at a different store, that you think scotch and soda is gross, that I have crap fashion sense. Tell me what somebody said even though I could read their lips and I know you’re lying to mess with me. Only concede with that scowl on your face as you throw your hand in front of your forehead in a reluctant “I guess”.

To sign “I love you”, don’t shut me out. Don’t look away. Don’t cross your arms or shove your hands in your pockets. Don’t walk far ahead of me. Don’t get mad when I hit tables and stomp on the floor. Look at me. Goddamn it, look at me. Please. Don’t leave me alone. It’s not fucking fair.
You know it isn’t.

To sign “I love you”, protect me.

To sign “I love you”, let me do the same for you.

To sign “I love you”, put up your thumb, index, and pinkie fingers. At the same time, press your middle and ring fingers to your palm. Hold your hand out, palm facing away from you, and move it slightly back and forth.

To sign “I love you”, I don’t stop at diners or cafés.

To sign “I miss you”, I drive without your hand on my thigh.

To sign “I need you”, I keep my hands at my sides.

There’s no one left to listen anyway.


Delaney Burk grew up in Alexandria, VA and recently earned her degree in English with a Creative Writing focus at Virginia Commonwealth University. She’s been previously published in Pwatem, Amendment, Crab Fat Magazine, From Whispers to Roars, Gravitas Magazine, Bottom Shelf Whiskey, Cleaning Up Glitter Literary Journal, The Aurora Review, and Coffin Bell Journal. When she is not watching every Colin Firth movie ever made or hoarding lipstick like a really lame dragon, she is exploring the urban fantasy genre, finding ways to merge horror and humor, and writing run-on sentences. She is currently interning for Feels Blind Literary Magazine and preparing to attend George Mason University’s MFA program in the fall.


See what happens when you click below.

What surprising, fascinating stuff can you tell us about the origin, drafting, and/or final version of “When the sign for ‘I love you’ is overused”?

The origin is kind of ridiculous and not quite the answer that is befitting of a serious publication, but I guess it would pay to be honest. I wrote this poem as a gift to my best friend that is an homage to the television adaptation of “Fargo”. It is a love poem rooted in a television show that is based on a movie. And as silly as that may be, I’m really proud of it. Hell, enough publications liked it that I was having editors asking to take the piece even after I withdrew it from consideration. I feel like the term “fan fiction” gets a bad wrap because there’s been such a stigma built around it when, in reality, very little is original anymore. Not exactly a hot take, but if there are going to be hundred of re-imaginings of Sherlock Holmes and Shakespeare plays, I can publish something like this. Just because something is a revamped adaptation doesn’t make it any less poignant to the reader. After all, how many Best Picture winners have been based on books?


Check out the write-up of the journal in The Writer.

Matter Press recently released titles from Meg Boscov, Abby Frucht, Robert McBrearty, Tori Bond, Kathy Fish, and Christopher Allen. Click here.

Matter Press is now offering private flash fiction workshops and critiques of flash fiction collections here.


Poetry, creative nonfiction, and fiction/prose poetry submissions are now OPEN. The submission period closes June 15, 2020; submit here.


08/03 • Darlene Scott
08/05 • Jocelyn Ulevicus
08/06 • Amy Bobeda (1 of 6)
08/10 • Cynthia Belmont
08/12 • J. C. Todd
08/13 • Amy Bobeda (2 of 6)
08/17 • Jo Gatford
08/19 • Amanda Vineyardx
08/20 • Amy Bobeda (3 of 6)
08/24 • Eva Jordan
08/26 • Gary Fincke
08/27 • Amy Bobeda (4 of 6)
08/31 • Renee Agatep
09/01 • Başak Yirmibeşoğlu
09/03 • Amy Bobeda (5 of 6)
09/07 • Paige Welsh
09/09 • Avital Gad-Cykman
09/10 • Amy Bobeda (6 of 6)
09/14 • Julianne Di Nenna
09/16 • Joey Kim
09/17 • Erika Kanda
09/21 • Brittany Oppenheimer