despite my rules against
such things, I kissed you last night
in the rain. I could feel eyes
peering around bushes and walls
to watch—I kissed you
anyway. I let you hold my hand
and walk me home.
I’ve not been feeling much these days.
I extinguished my feelings,
unwilling to suffer the heat
emitted from myself gone up in flames.
so when friends and strangers watched me
stretch to my tiptoes
and pull your face to mine,
I was not embarrassed. I think I felt—
but I'm not sure when
I'll admit what it was.
four in the morning:
I punch my way through an obstacle course of
used tissues and dirty clothes to reach the bathroom
where I squat
and piss a steady stream of blood.
this cherry cough syrup toilet water reminds me
of my first time in the back seat
of Andrew’s father’s mini cooper—that was some
Exorcist shit, trust me,
I spewed more than enough blood
to believe I had fallen cunt-first
into some possessed crucifix.
I was fourteen. three months later I left
Planned Parenthood with a year’s supply
of birth control pills.
nurse Angie shouted on my way out:
be sure to urinate after intercourse
to avoid infection!
while handing me two dozen condoms
because I looked like I needed them,
okay. 4:48 am:
I down a liter of water and one
can of beer, collecting fluids to be squeezed out
hopefully any color but red. tense,
I eye the specimen—
and curl into a little bean on the concrete
floor (not bothering to pull my panties back on)
and cry, and curse myself
for not refilling my Xanax. for whatever reason
all I can think of is last week when
I greeted a squirrel—hello, fat muffin! look
how handsome you are!—and the man walking past
gave me a look to suggest I were eating
my left arm
while dancing the macarena.
is this my life flashing before
my eyes? shouldn’t it be
more stunning than this? or am I doomed to an
by which I mean a week or so.
I do not foresee myself leaving this spot
and imagine I will continue to pee
and continue to bleed
until all of my ten pints are gone and I
wither up and die
—of utter banality?
my urethra clenches at the thought.
I leave with eyebrows smeared forehead to chin:
she kisses me hard
as if she wants my face to become her own.
grandma took too many pills.
I find this funny, imagining my poor
demented grandmother swallowing capsules
because she can’t remember if she already has.
mom calls. she didn’t get on her plane to Haiti.
she knew something wasn’t quite right
and now her mother is in the hospital hooked to
84 or so IVs
so she can’t piss herself to death by dehydration.
mom says she’s worried about the cat.
who will brush his mane
and feed him too many times a day?
who will talk to him when he can’t sleep
I can’t help but think if it were sam, that monster
of a cat, if it were him
in a diaper talking to ghosts, no one
would think twice before pulling that plug.
it would just be
Bye Bye, Kitty.
I think grandma’s probably just cold: I’m sure
the psych ward halls are cold.
at some point I’ll be home, walking down
those halls with invisible scarf tied
around my neck. I won’t stay long
but I’ll stand by her bed acting as the dutiful
kin she can’t remember
if only to promise I’ll take care of sam
when she dies.
if only to say
Bye Bye, Grandma.
Mama says don’t drink that. she says,
you know by now the last bit of wine is always mine—
so she forces the cork from a brand new bottle
and pours me a glass of my own.
she says you do not take your eyes off the spider.
she says I don’t care if christ himself
rises from the grave and comes knocking at the door,
you never take your eyes off
she still tells me
there’s no such thing as demons
but every night I watch her carve new crucifixes
into the walls.
and often: goddamn it, grace marie—
she says goddamn it, stop smoking (with a parliament
bobbing between downturned lips she asks
me for a light)—Mama says
I thought you knew better than to end up like me.
Just after dawn I wake up
suffocating, my pig nose further squished
in the chasm between his shoulder blades.
He likes to be the little spoon.
I like to peel myself away from
him and graze the skin around his hipbones
until he squirms,
until he rolls about to face me.
He’ll curl up tight against me, deep
setting fire to the goosebumps on my chest.
This is my favorite time of day:
When my hands are able to romp
through his curls uncontested, when
he isn’t yet alive enough to complain if I smooth his eyebrows
or kiss the sharp bridge of his nose,
when he’ll burrow into the space I keep bare
especially for him
between my shoulder and neck
and he is so close, his lashes tickle my chin
each time he sighs.
I won’t want to get up but I’ll feel compelled to—
to let him sleep or just to let me breathe—
so I crawl from under this cross-knot
of limbs; slowly
because the coils scream when my pulse barely quickens
and I tiptoe out the door
despite the hardwoods clinging to my soles.
They want me to stay—
he shifts to the center of our bed.
I plow through cereal with the spoon I used
to dig a dead squirrel’s grave.
I moved his body with hands wrapped in
produce bags; I marked the spot with
cigarette butts arranged in a heart.
Nine days later
I smoked a fresh one with Simon by my side
towering six feet, two inches above the tomb.
He wanted to say some words. He rambled.
He bummed a drag and handed it back
was so aware of the frayed nails scratching my fingerprints
and the saliva hugging my filter—
until I noticed the squirrels gathered around.
Too many of them. Very much alive.
Little rodent eyes watched us mourn their loss.
I remembered a question once asked:
what happens if he eats a cigarette?
I don’t have an answer for that.
All I know is when he dies
we come here to remember him,
his body stiff and paws splayed
nestled beneath a wreath of toxic fumes.
If I am absolutely honest I must admit I don’t remember
exactly what the sign said—it was something like danger or proceed with caution
or for all I know it was blunt, ominous:
for the Love of Christ woman you do not have to do this
you may not see it now but this will ruin you
it’s not too late
save yourself now!
So I can’t recall specifics but I can still feel myself
tangled up in him, I can see
that sign nailed to the wall, condescending arrow pointing
down at me
on my seventeenth birthday.
Finally old enough to take care of myself
I closed my eyes. I heard minds opening, and doors and
and desperate, I scratched and I dug
hoping to find myself in the blood beneath my fingernails
borrowed from the skin of his back.
More than once
I glanced at that sign through the back of my thick skull.
It watched us. It saw the road ahead.
But I ignored it as it screamed, yellow and persistent
dead end ahead
turn back now
please, do not continue this way
I guess it doesn’t feel great to think about him
fucked up without you—that’s your thing.
You’d like to think so at least,
it's kind of like a you-and-him-together thing.
So that explains why you call him without fail
every time you drink one (or two) too many cans of PBR
(and maybe a bottle of some pale ale too
but at this point you’re not really sure)
because it just doesn’t feel right without him, sitting
on some stranger’s sticky kitchen floor. It’s not the same
without his pack to sneak 27’s from
when you decide you’ve had enough of your own.
So you’ll be a little jealous when he tells you
yes, I was a little drunk last night
and you’ll be furious if he says he had a shitty time—
because goddamn it if he’s going to miserable
he had better know it will be with you—
I guess you'll just tug at your greasy roots. It’s been
ten days since your last cigarette: you quit smoking
for a while. Probably just until he’s back around
to bum from again.
I can't feel you but
I see you
until you fly away—
a phantom tingling
teeny legs—you don't
have any feet.
I find this all mildly
Each morning I find my muffin in the hall
resting her head on the floor outside my door.
Gingerly, she rolls herself flat: granny smith eyes
gaze up at me. Pomegranate padded paws knead through
Her name was Sugar when we met—aptly named
but when I held her it was I who melted in her arms.
She still has four black hairs hidden
between peppermint ears, a hint of cocoa as accent
to plush meringue façade
and her name may have changed but she is still
so sickly sweet, flat now like a crêpe on her back
with fluffy mew and marshmallow tail
to remind me
I am home.
sandpaper rubbed me red, standing in for
facial hair while a sunburn born of
greedy teeth and tongue
trickled from behind my ear, down
my neck and shoulders—sprinkled across
as he pressed against me, as I pressed
against the wall
I wanted to drop to my knees
and swallow him up, maybe forever
what I wanted was to fall to my knees
and cry sticky, fruitless
but I am a coward
so I laughed at myself;
I bit his lip and he said
He has this one mole, right in the center of his back. I only ever get to see it when he’s
undressed and turned away from me, like he is now. I don’t know exactly how to explain
this—I am full. Looking at this brown spot perfectly situated between his shoulder blades
makes me feel so, so full.
I wonder if he can feel it those nights when it explodes from me like rays of goddamn
sunshine, and bounces from wall to wall and blinds me until I find the courage to soak
it all up again. 5:00 this morning, my shoulders ache and I lay on my side and I cry
for far too long (again). My head is pounding. I wonder if he can feel it now, it’s crept so
far into me I can’t even imagine digging it out, even though I am so, too full.
I feel sick. This one little mole between these beautiful shoulder blades is making me sick.
And I can only see it when he’s turned away.
baby freckles. barely visible specks of orange burst to the surface
of these great, white lakes. my thighs. you know the ones—
they slap together when I walk.
amazing! the miracle of life on stage before your eyes, my canvas
is a breeding ground of new beginnings. from zygote to fetus
to full sized fucking being in three minutes or less.
gestation has never been so quick and painless!
I give birth some 2600 times a day—amazing!
infants crawl tirelessly on my pasty ginger shell. copper-colored children
with free reign to my body, none quite like another;
more like snowflakes than children.
and they melt away so easily when I abandon the heat of the sun...
I am a mother denied. I mourn my loss.
so I hold my cigarette like a girl. I dress like a girl—
I wear pink polka dotted circle skirts on a Wednesday,
I paint my nails gold, sometimes green but always gold
at least one of them is always gold
but I swear like a sailor, gobble candy like a little kid
I never quite learned chopsticks, I pick up sushi with my hands
like a child. uncultured, from rural Los Angeles
but I suck dick on my knees like a good girl, I get fucked
on my back like a lady (you know I like it rough, I take it like a man)
I bruise like a peach. I bleed like that disease
that won’t ever let me stop. I stain the collar of your shirt
with raspberry lips, like a girl—so maybe I really am a girl
My blue plastic lighter is glued between my left palm and thumb, the cheap piece of shit
and the wind is cackling, watching me like I’m sixteen and pregnant; doubled over in a
fit of mean-girl giggling judgment.
For the love of Jesus Christ I cannot light this cigarette.
Already I’ve torn up a perfectly polished nail in my attempts. The skin is slowly being
grated from my fingertip because this stupid flame Will. Not. Hold. My beautiful, bloody,
frozen cold thumb looks about as pathetic as I feel sitting on a damp patch of grass,
huddled as close to the building as I can get, contorted inwards to form a human shell
at ten in the morning in my pink snowflaked pajama pants. I am the only sentient being
on this campus right now. Nobody is around except one very persistent bumblebee who is
convinced my face is a flower. I keep telling him I’m not: I promise little bee, there is no
nectar here for you, but he just keeps coming at me, hungry. I can’t blame him; my hair
is the color of a California poppy. But we’re not in California anymore.
The bee is confused. He doesn’t know how he ended up so far from home. And now the
bee is my best friend so of course, he takes this moment of supreme spiritual
closeness as opportunity to buzz on off, away.
This is a strange place. There are many trees, a whole lot of grass, but no color to be seen
other than green and dark red brick. I don’t think any birds have yet flown North for spring
as literally the only thing I hear besides my inward (and accidentally outward) cursing is
the wind. How would the birds even manage to get here with wind like this? They would
be tossed about in the sky like itty shreds of paper and come crashing down just like that
poor baby bird that fell from its nest on my birthday and landed, inextricably, on the
concrete at my feet.
This wind is volatile. Heartless. It massacres baby birds and blows out my lighter-fire,
all the while laughing to itself with sadistic delight. I’m frustrated. So I flip the finger to the
world just as the only living creature I’ve seen today walks by and looks right at me—
I am a gem, I swear, a perfect lady—and I pick my damp, whip lashed self off the ground
to go inside.
I’ll just light my cigarette in the hallway. There's nobody around to tell me no.
Don't look at me
that way now. Please
I am a flower; shake me too hard
my petals weep. They fall
and your eyes shake me
when you’re hungry
drink some water.
go back to sleep
when you’re lonely
stare at the ceiling.
scratch at the walls
go back to sleep
when you’re sick
try hard to be alive
change your mind.
go back to sleep
if you’re sad, don’t wake up
but if you do
go back to sleep
pulse shakes you up at night
(it will because
it always does);
just the radiator. keep calm
go back to sleep
foreheads touching, knees touching
and feet entwined—
we kiss like eskimos—
I love you; my fingers
wrapped tight in your hair
I’ve been reading, I’ve been painting
I’ve been watching the rain collect in pools
from the safety of my lofted bed
The sun won’t rise for forty days;
I’ll be older then. I’ll be weaker in body
I’ll be stronger in soul
Yes, I called last night just to hear your voice
because I was afraid. I crawled into my
cocoon again and slept barely at all
but this morning I shed my skin.
I was asked to by the pounding water and I stretched
my many legs, I rubbed my compound eyes
So I’ve been reading, I’ve been painting
I’ve been dreaming. I’ve been flying.
I’ve been decaying more slowly
every single day