We tell each other how tired we are,
our mouths fall open on their oily hinges,
we spill the wet dark from inside,
we lay out our days like dirty laundry,
we ask to be touched gently,
we expect to be touched.
I imagine setting fire to piles of clothes, the laundry that builds up by my door,
the things I tell myself I need,
as if assigning them an importance will keep them here with me;
I need love,
I need joy,
I need you.
I submit to the heaviness, the being, the weight,
the unbaked dough of my stomach,
the hard ridges of bone,
the unexplored valleys.
I am shaking tonight,
with the words unsaid, the great holy unsaid,
I built an altar in my throat, and there I store all the words that are meant for you,
but too much prayer has left me shivering.
I become a lonely castanet.
I remember the pineapple.
The way it bit and seared my mouth,
how I ate it anyway.
Every morning, my dad would cut into a new pineapple,
spread juice across the counter tops,
coating the knife,
each slice was precise, sure in his strong hands.
He stripped the core away, the hard and chewy center,
Scraping it from the cutting board, and I would salvage it,
gnawing it to pulp.
This was my mother’s favorite part of the pineapple.
I remember the bowl, full to the brim with the sunny fruit.
I remember how my stomach would ache just to look at it,
how I ate past the point of fullness.
I remember how I wanted him to hold me like he held this fruit,
every morning, sure and strong,
how I wanted him to hold me like he held the knife,
caressing it, decisive, no doubt, just purpose.
Wipe me clean after each slice.
This poem is not about you.
This poem is about the ocean within me, the unfiltered heat,
winds ripping the sound from my lungs,
the grit between my teeth.
This poem is not about you.
Because I am tired of parsing you apart, sewing you into poems,
kissing each stanza, as if you belonged here with me,
between these pages.
I hold your name under my tongue,
buzzing like a swarm of wasps,
I cough you up in my sleep,
you catch in my throat,
I wake up screaming for an exorcism.
Stagnant, a still river, an oil spot bruise,
reaching the center of the tightrope, the midpoint of this year,
a weight strung on such a thin and fraying cord.
I run my hands along my face, as if it was someone else’s
wondering what it’d be like to explore you for the first time.
You are radio silence, static on the line, a dial tone,
I am a chorus of one, an imbalanced harmony,
the skipping stone of a one-note song.
I lost ten pounds today,
after 15 days drowning in a pool of my own pheromones,
I stood naked under the water,
watched the dirt fall away,
skin sloughed off in sheets,
handfuls of hair,
eyes stinging, strangers to the shining clean.
Ten pounds, 2 weeks’ residue,
I scrubbed at the oily sheen of sorrow,
steam emptying my pores,
the dust of depression running in rivulets down my legs,
I emerged a newborn child, shiny with fresh skin,
raw and red, an open wound.
In this bittersweet upswing
words build up, like plaque on teeth.
First: they fill my mouth, push my tongue aside,
crowd my jaw til it’s strained and cracking.
Then: they fill my sinuses, stomach, lungs,
stretching tissue and vein,
coating the back of my throat, tangling into unintelligible strings, gagging me.
Third: they push out through my hands and feet,
finding release in the twitch and pulse, I am continuous motion,
pressured and babbling.
There is not enough space for these words to pass quietly,
I am a scream, the minute before it erupts,
I am a broken library, a scrambled dictionary.
Today was butter on my tongue,
soft around the edges,
this season going weak in the knees,
melting the last of this ice in my chest.
Now, I worry about frost, a cold front,
the coming rain.
April is the cruelest month.
When her boyfriend called me a cunt, I did not cry.
In front of him.
I spit back, called him a fucker,
clenched my tiny fists, called him a two-bit sonofabitch.
Just a small country hick girl,
I tanned my face to leather, broke all of my teeth.
When her boyfriend told me he liked my freckles,
especially the ones on my nose,
I did not hide my smile.
I told him about the ones on my neck,
drew his eyes downward, just because I could.
When her boyfriend hugged me a little too tight,
I gave in to the constriction,
for a moment.
I felt him smell my neck, felt the subsequent cringe,
the bite of the needle, the drug of his masculinity,
as his hands grew into my back like claws.
When her boyfriend told me he used to check me out when he was still single,
and that he still checks me out when he sees me around,
I did not hide my smile, but I did question its origins.
We were parked on a hill in the sun,
and I started to remember why my mother told me
never to get in the car with strange men.
When her boyfriend asked if he could call me Sexy Bitch from now on,
I laughed, mouth big and wide, and told him yes.
I went home, put on my reddest lipstick, the mascara I never wear,
bared my teeth in the mirror,
curled back into bed, and cried until my pillow ran red and black.
When her boyfriend called “Nice ass!” as I got out of his car,
I curved my spine inward,
shocked at the implications my body makes without asking my permission.
I went home, stood naked in front of the mirror, and tried to believe him.
I speak ash, spit spark and tinder,
fire in each footfall,
I am drowning.
Bound in this bed, my room filling up
stacks of words, piles, heavy as iron casings,
they cling to the sheets, stale and sticky.
Choking on my tongue,
I am learning the language of this body,
the dialect of this pain,
writ into my veins as psalms,
we must've taken this from our mothers,
the womb as a battleground, a church, a claustrophobic confessional.
I am segmenting,
splitting hairs and fingernails, body breaking down,
paying penance for the sins of this life.
The inside of my mouth is a hot red welt,
raw meat, and searing pain, a hole at the back of my throat,
vinegar and salt water,
coughing up pieces of myself, teeth rearranging,
I spit blood more often than not, these days.
I fall to my knees, though they are bruised and aching,
palms up, heart lines extending, I give in to you.
By candlelight your angles are smoothed,
the thumping bass enters through my hips,
I swivel towards the door,
I weigh the possibility of heartbreak,
the cadence of the night climbing the back of my throat,
each key change etched into the soft clay of my face,
if I should go home when I can no longer smile.
Scratched record throat, burning tarmac eyes,
this sickness has fallen into me,
slouching my shoulders like a baggy coat.
I am swallowed by the stink of illness, the stale air, the echoing silence,
I melt into this bed, willing it to bite back,
exhaling fever dream and appetite.
400 miles from here, there is a girl with a crown of hair,
thick stomp smoky leather, all boots and strong fingers,
mouth full of stones.
I fell asleep with her in my head
wrapped in the cocoon of fever, the smell of sweat and oil,
braiding heart strings into thick ropes,
I did not realize I loved her, before,
but now, I am stretching the miles between my fingers,
the taffy-pull of distance, falling too fast.
I am segmented,
two cities residing under my breastbone,
I have roots in her city, and warm soil in this one,
here I am boiling, but there I was hot and itchy in my skin,
love is a decision,
love is an ailment,
love is a trip-and-fall in the dark
love consumes me, fills me, heats me from within.
My eyes are gorged round.
Pores, knuckles, handfuls of what I call love.
It is the human condition to be forever emptying out.
I leave the doors open, pull back the window shades,
I sleep with my arms wide open.
I am ready. I am waiting.
I touch myself and pretend my fingers are hers.
Peel back my hands, green branches,
fragile seedling, uprooted sunlight,
today I unfurled my leaves towards you.
What I mean is, I have no one to kiss tonight,
no one to draw my heat towards them,
as if it was the most beautiful perfume,
What I mean is, I have no one to pull into my bed,
share my pillow like an island,
blanket like the sea,
tangled legs kicking up for air,
What I mean is, my mouth is full of "I love you",
without an ear to pour it into,
I am choking on the space between me and everyone else.
I dreamt of her today,
fell asleep with my clothes on, in the heat of the day,
I woke up and my room was a greenhouse,
heart blooming with all the possibility that exists in my dreams.
I dreamt of us today,
woke up, my mouth dry from the pressured speech of sleep,
woke up sweating, as if she knew,
as if asking me to apologize for what makes my heart flutter,
I am ashamed of the soft parts of me,
their unconscious responses to this impossible idea;
I run it on a ticker tape behind my eyes,
fingers like blind explorers,
pleasure should not come in such a gilded box of embarrassment.
For Boston and the 3 who lost their lives today,
the hundreds whose blood will forever stain that street,
I have no words,
helplessness collecting on my tongue,
coating it, mossy and thick.
For Iraq and the 20 bombs set off today,
Close your eyes, and they’re thunder,
Close your eyes, and they’re an earthquake’s nightmare,
Close your eyes.
For Somalia and the 29 who died in an explosion yesterday,
I am sorry your names went unread,
your eyes gone glassy for someone else’s cause,
your voices stifled in a country we are taught to fear.
For the thousands of victims of US drones in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and Yemen,
For you I am on my knees.
I have never been taught to pray,
but today your gods are collecting between my knuckles,
like so much cosmic dust.
The humanity that exists in the shadow of tragedy,
ants swarmed to rotting fruit,
breaking down the carnage, returning to the soil.
I have no answers. I feel no safety.
Today I revel in the sound of my footfalls,
the trunks of my legs,
tendon synapse fibrous bouquet.
Because we are forever wavering,
the tenuous razor’s edge between this life and the next.
A speeding bullet that knows no target.
Miles of road, an endless fabric run under the needle of a sewing machine.
Loss and gain measured by the direction in which we travel.
Painful, guilty retching in dirty reststop bathrooms.
Your smell. His smell. Their smell.
Heat. Warmth. Safety. Suffocation.
Names of towns stored between my fingers, for later.
Seeing our muscles stretched tight to our cheeks,
the unfamiliar soreness,
happiness touched down on my face today,
an S.O.S. helicopter, she's be circling for months.
There is a light to what we do, faces lit from behind,
so many candles in this ever-giving light,
this, this is what builds up inside me.
5 pills. Every night.
So I leave the knives sleeping in the drawer,
So I don't step in front of a parade of cars,
So my hands won't shake,
So I won't kiss you on accident,
So my tongue will tighten its grip on every thought I think today...
But this is the magic medicine, the pill that has no prescription,
the sound of laughter,
the crescendo of mania without the cliff jump of depression,
this is every vein running with molten gold,
it is an unchecked fire,
it is every word you have never said, cascading with purpose from your lips,
it is fear clasped in the arms of adrenaline.
I have never felt so possible.
I want to bring you down with me,
head over heels,
I want you to feel this as I do.
Put your hands in this open wound,
feel the pulse pulse pulse against your wrist,
imagine opened floodgates, the final release.
I wanted to crawl into bed with you last night,
like a wounded bird, put my head in your lap,
shove this pain under your nose,
a classic perfume, a bloodied wine glass.
The tightening of muscle,
the swish of fabric against skin,
lifting each leg, up and down.
Counting 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, 3, 1, 2, …….3.
There is a fire behind my eyes,
the smell of metal in my sweat,
this frenzy, this fight, it’s never enough.
I bury this fever in the graveyard of my forehead.