Slapped with sun, you wake up the next morning with a pounding headache. Someone else next to you shifts as you slump out of bed and into the nearest bathroom you can find. You sit on the floor in the shower, palms against ceramic, the continental drift under your hands. Scrubbing yourself new. Clutching someone else’s loofah. Refilling your craters. Lava hair. Crumbling skin. “Don’t feel so sorry for yourself,” you say, attempting to stand. But you bang your head on the soap bar, slide back down, question yourself. Step out. Drying yourself with someone else’s towel.
Back in the bedroom, you quietly scavenge for your clothes between black holes. Under the bed, someone else’s unfriendly cat is lying on your shirt. You peel it out from under him, to which he responds with a hiss. Look up - someone else is still sleeping, lost and suspended in infrared. Sigh of relief. You stroke your own arms and whisper to yourself. Keeping yourself lunar. Keeping your distance.
You have survived without oxygen for this long. You orbit nothing but yourself. You still have your pounding brain, both feet. Tiptoeing out the door. Everything in the universe is on its way somewhere.
there are no more miles to count.
only empty spaces and e-mails you haven't responded to.
leaving would've been liberating if I had stopped loving you
when I left. I am living through patterns and the same three lines
and the warm beds
of strangers striking my back, fingers like matches.
we both wanted to leave but wouldn't admit it,
three crooked years in the crook of your neck;
in your kitchen with the rooster's moans,
your boots scuffing the tiles.
today, at least three missed periods
after you gave up,
"I am okay."
"I don't love you anymore."
"I wish you the worst."
summer, no longer standardized into tests or time,
she is gas money and patience you don’t have.
today she kicks the car, turns her head.
tomorrow she’ll kiss your nose and lead you home.
summer and someone else’s shirt,
she is disturbing, power and exhilaration,
mosquito-bitten and running off on her own,
sleeping in a boat, and she will gladly pull you down.
summer and her skin airtight,
raspberry stained finger tips, young and green
old Florida freckles and bruised knees,
she stings you sweet, a honeybee.
summer and all the old boys cooped up in her head.
they stare out the window, remembering her softness
sewed into their backyards.
“Eviction time,” you say, and shake her shoulders.
summer and rattling her brain for answers,
she stretches you thin around her neck,
wears you like an amusement park prize.
you rub her palms and she checks the time.
summer and rolling down the windows,
her eyes shuffle like slot machines, an urban duckling,
her brain reeking of pollen and new paint.
you ask her if you can pay the rent.
“you make me so happy,
i’m creating days that don’t exist
just for you.”
you are scared.
i know. i know.
pyrotechnics and bug spray,
a holiday to, essentially,
burn your money into the sky.
loud nosies make you shaky so
you had wandered to an empty street,
a cheek pressed into pavement,
waiting for the road to remember you
the way you remembered it.
you wished it would cut you some slack,
your fingers curling and uncurling power lines -
the whole block lost power.
you told mama you wanted to
slick your way into that wide-eyed city,
she told you,
"cities aren't run by
people like us."
she means, of course,
you have to be white,
male, rich, etc.
which you know because
if you google image-search 'skin',
the first five pages are only white people.
you will never have enough
food and fuel to tie you over until mealtime,
keep your eyes wide open,
you're not safe enough to sleep
on public transport.
you're not some Bruce Springsteen,
not some Rolling Stone,
but you are ready to run nonetheless.
you are dark and heavy,
and more explosive than ever,
ready to slip into that cheap American skin.
i wore all of the itchy sweaters you had given me, picked the lint off your rubber-soled socks
all the doors looked heavier than they were,
everything was Carolina blue, much like you
your girlfriend had broken up with you two weeks prior to the news - you thought she had given you an STD.
it was testicular cancer.
i spent so many days curled up in that pastel armchair, reading to you.
"Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone."
you know they say sometimes your hair grows back differently after chemo - sometimes curlier.
it was the second time i had met your mother.
"Wizarding World opens soon."
spilling hospital coffee on strangers,
We'd watch Scrubs and you'd make me listen to the sounds of
you'd pretend like everything was fine.
nurses would tell me I looked like you.
"Don't let Dad drink himself to death."
"Too late for that."
the tufts of hair that fell into the sink,
curly and black,
filled my eyes like cataracts.
soda pop fountain dream boy,
low voice, over-the-counter brush of the hand,
hair on your arms standing up.
mannerisms like a toy soldier,
arms straight, rips the stitches out of your heart.
"don't be so pathetic," he says,
"don't be such a stranger."
you tell him you were born to fade out.
i haven’t slept since that ball drop, starting 2013, shaking my hips in your hands. i fascinated you, yes, but i should’ve given it my all.
no amount of should’ve’s would’ve made you stay, but i am made of clay and i form to your hands. non-adhesive. fun to touch, but you never knew what to make of me. the palms have been calling me for the past 6 or 7 years and i think i am finally ready to go, to peel myself fresh.
i set myself on fire in front of you - a performance - and all you could do was complain about the heat. no round of applause.
twenty pounds underweight and crushed by it, and you said nothing when i pinched the sides of my stomach. i still believe our almost-baby hides in my bones and screams for you every night. i habitually slump my feet off the side of the bed, empty except for me, and attempt to rock it back to sleep. the both of us can only keep quiet for so long.
when are you coming home?
come back or stay gone.
i'm sorry i always got upset with you when we were high
i'm sorry i made fun of your brother's favorite television show
i'm sorry my parents hate you
i'm sorry i hate you sometimes
i'm sorry i didn't take my time loving you
(i don't think three years was enough)
i'm sorry i was so dramatic all the time
i'm sorry i tried to kill myself in the aftermath
i'm sorry you had to see my scars
i'm sorry you didn't stop me
i'm sorry i always talked about my rape and i'm sorry it made you sad
i'm sorry i told you i never wanted to get married just to piss you off
i'm sorry i wasn't worth fighting for
i'm sorry you didn't fight
i'm sorry you let me into your life
It started in a fucking mini-van,
I was honeycombed,
quiet and hollow,
the way you liked me.
You introduced yourself to my mother
and she shook your hand,
called you a “nice boy”.
You looked at me like I owed you something.
We were by the lake, buffering in blacks and blues,
and I pretended
like I liked you
because I thought it would be good for me.
We stayed in the back of the car.
I stared at the ceiling
and wished you would stop trying to kiss me.
my eyes had fogged up
and you slumped your skin onto mine,
your kisses slobbery, forceful, and persistent.
I said no three times
and you shoved yourself onto me
four, pinning my wrists into stained carpet,
leaving cold copies
of your hands
on my thighs.
At one point,
I think you even had the nerve
to tell me
you loved me.
it was every weekend
for six months
Until I realized what was happening to me.
I looked for control everywhere I could,
slicing and starving and isolating myself.
Why did it take me so long to leave?
(at least I did it on Christmas Eve)
And since then,
I haven’t stopped counting,
a bad habit resurfacing
from my childhood.
It happens whenever bruises show up on my skin
where they don’t belong.
I am never going to be clean enough
until I shed every skin cell
with any trace of you,
until my teeth have counted
every bristle on my toothbrush,
until all of my hair falls out
and grows back in.
And now that I have realized
what you have done,
blood has returned to my veins,
hot and heavy
The LEAST you could do,
after all the shit you put me through,
was let me
I mean, damn.
i have been waking up in gray scale for two months
the back of my throat is beating me up because it knows better than to let myself be silenced
(or it just misses my wisdom teeth)
"what's her problem?"
see, my problem is
i am slicing my thighs exactly how i slice my apples,
which by the way are the only things i can stomach anymore,
and the problem is,
if i sleep for more than four hours,
someone thinks i have tried to kill myself again,
and it's pathetic, really, because tomorrow is going to come
regardless of whether or not i sleep
but to cope i'll pretend like tomorrow is today or today is tomorrow or yesterday or the day before and every other fucking day because i can't tell the difference between april and december,
all i know is that i'm still cold and miserable and no one gives a damn
"it's better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all"
this is such bullshit
it's not fair
because everyone else gets to just walk away without a scratch
and i am holding myself in my hands.
it's not fair
"he misses you"
It has been six months
and there are still bruises showing up
(in places you can hide, lucky for him).
You are trying to remake
the blue copies of his
hands on your ribcage, wrists,
once compressed into the carpet
of his car.
You say, “No,
this is my body.
I destroy it. I have the say,” and you dig your nails in
to dry desertscape skin, searching
for volcanic blood.
You come up empty-handed,
already rubbed raw.
Starving yourself, flat as acid,
you’re waiting for solar wind
to sweep you into space.
Molecules are dripping
off of you every day
and you are the only person who can see them.
You want to find a new person’s
body to make into a home,
because your’s has already been invaded,
your’s has already been destroyed,
but unfortunately people don’t come with warnings.
“Handle with care.”
You are losing your density
like it never
Jake breaks. He doesn’t believe he can
do much else, but no of course he can.
Brandishing knives, strapped to his
bony hips, sharper than mine, pinching me in our sleep.
Jake laughing. Jake leaving trails of Skittles behind us.
Astrophysics. Everything distant, pivoting, eternally expanding into -
what? We don’t know. What are we expanding into?
I am expanding into him.
Cheap screws lining the desk,
don’t grab my arm that way. It’s a sensitive spot.
Like the puppy’s paws, used to being abused.
It broke him.
He broke him and blamed it on me.
Typical, of such boys. Self-righteous, never in the wrong,
a cycle of me fleeting and returning on all fours.
How easy it is to sway the human heart.
It’s like a relay race, trying to impress him -
Hopping in a potato sack, egg on a spoon between my teeth.
I am good at looking stupid.
He wants to plaster his walls in leather,
I want to break every bone in his body
and then sew them back together, in love.
Transition, stilled by the silence.
He only knows how to fight for himself.
He doesn’t know how to fight for me.
Typical, of such boys.
Getting to his head. Getting him to shut up
about me-not-caring or me-not-smiling or me-not-believing-in-him.
Always an escapist, neurotic as hell. Do you even know
how to stay?
Snails curling underneath his heavy hand,
just like I do.
I am capsizing his boat before he can escape
with all of himself. Shirts, boots, dried blood,
the apples all gone. Extraneous solution.
Oxygen tank and mask. They strap it down to my baby nose. I’m ducking my head down, picking at the frilled hems of my Barbie nightgown, trying to distract myself. Every night for two years, my body failing to fight; it was like sleeping with scissors in my lungs. I only remember the smell, machined oxygen tastes toxic. They told me it was normal, a lot of kids have trouble breathing. Lines pressed into my nostrils, breathing out bacteria. I just wanted to play. Calloused hands stroking my cheek, “Don’t be difficult.” My sister watching, shivering from the door frame, jealous of the attention I was getting, she said. She wanted a bedtime story, I needed hospice (Does she remember?) It lasted forever, it lasted ten minutes. Straps off, the lungs resurfacing, weaker than air.
you make me seasick.
fishing lines wrapped around my throat, speckled trout swimming down my arms.
don't even touch me
anymore. i was born with hurricanes
in my knuckles
and earthquakes on my eyelids
and i am not afraid to tear you down.
if i were in season,
you'd gut me
just like those fish.
i'd be the tastiest damn thing you ever eat.
not even close
not even finished
this summer without you
i am still with you,
only now i am disguised
as the water vapor around your body,
the humidity in your atmosphere.
i turn you into sweat, i turn you into tears.
this summer without you i am
reaching for your ankles,
my arms huge and plant-like,
rolling you out like a rug
in the floors of time and space.
i am forcing you to remember
all that you have pretended to forget:
the blockbuster science fiction films,
game cube games,
our electronic fantasies
of abandoning the body.
this summer without you i am
spending in the city,
bumping my skin against strangers
who shove gravel between my teeth.
beating all of your high scores,
playing the game
better than you ever could,
eating all the 8-bit hearts i can find.
surviving off of bioelectromagnetics
and feigned intimacy.
you are just bored and alone.
in the end,
we all want to feel essential so i will walk up and down your street (a perfect little rectangle on google maps) and forget how to spell my middle name like you did for two years,
hissing like the horror story bitter bride trope (because i change tropes every week, next week i will be the manic pixie dream girl)
except you wouldn’t buy me that horrifying five dollar wedding dress from Goodwill because you are cheap like my heart
and all i have are recycled words shoved into these tiny ass pockets and i want to throw them like eggs at your house but i could never do that to your mother
so instead i will walk back and forth and laugh with the other ghosts and hope that you see me and pretend it was a hallucination,
because in the end that’s about all i boil down to, a fleeting image, wishing i could take up more space, wishing i had the privilege to lose my mind
when I road-trip to you this summer,
doused in side effects and the umbra of the Earth,
do not take me in.
do not return to me my hazy,
do not collect them like coins,
do not throw them into hotel fountains
wishing they were something they’re not.
those were the golden nights,
dialing and fumbling over phone numbers
searching for something to say to you.
you, fresh as larva, always
crop-dusting over my cranium, over cornfields and road signs.
I slept in the driveway,
waiting for the lunar eclipse to change me in ways I knew it wouldn’t.
all I could think of was you, state-lines away,
telling me how that moon looked
like a curled up shark.
I told you:
I have never seen such an angry creature
give up so quickly.
Then I met myself.
Summers of growing -
currents beat against the rocks
while we leaned against lightning, sipping
glass-bottled cherry sodas
waiting for some kind of awakening,
some kind of antidote for our own
dodging and sometimes missing
the fists of our families,
tightened like clam shells, a stronger exoskeleton than our own.
I was miserable, but I didn’t notice,
because that’s when everything felt fresh, tasted sweet,
when we cleansed our wounds just by floating
over antiseptic water. We would resprout,
green and glowing, filling each other with light.
Time chased us like angry dogs,
scraping and shaking us up.
But the bruises on our cherub knees were just the beginning -
time would hurl itself at us over and over again.
Sometimes, you have to let it win.
At some point, you have to tuck away
the memories of lost tonsils and pet lizard funerals,
dead tree frogs in tin lunch boxes and phone-calls-home.
It took me this long to realize
that the most important thing
my brain is a sand-sifter,
burning hot grain memories
against my skull.
in my throat.
my hands will remember you
in my sleep
and I will wake up
with water in my eyes.
I will come back to you
with cut-up limbs
and dry eyes
I will stretch my skin
over my scars,
accept your mother’s iced tea,
my pack of coffin nails.
and I will haunt your backyard,
smoking in that tree we used to climb.
I will finally say goodbye,
sift back into the sea.