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claire Jun 2017
you have entered the realm of life after separation.
gone are the daisies she tucked behind your ears. it’s autumn now.
you are getting older. your boots are heavy and your chest is heavier.
you were given something gleaming, but it isn’t yours,
anymore. you seethe in your own ache.
this is your first silver october. the blushing leaves have gone greyscale,
like an i love lucy rerun. they evoke a stab of grief between your lungs.
you have to rewrite the story of your life now,
go forward knowing that everything after will be somehow
lesser than her. no person will reach into you the way she did.
you are a lost girl. resignation is all you have left,
resignation and streets bitter with dead leaves, streets where you run and shout
a silent prayer of loss.

but then:
but then.

you are reciting a poem for a room of people and your words
belong to your body now. a deep glow has fallen over everything,
right onto a girl you’ve only seen once before.
front row. face open. taking in what you are saying,
your retrospective sorrow, with a particular kind of attentiveness
you have needed all along.
everyone is listening, but she is hearing you.
in that moment, when you are raw and earnest,
you think that perhaps there’s something different about
this one. how even when you are done, she still seems to be
hearing all the words you cannot say.

and then:
and then.

spring is thrusting its way out of cold dirt
and you are twisting and breathing and this girl,
this girl, she is one million ******* shades of red. all you can do is
look at her without turning away, as if you could do such a thing
even if you tried. maybe this is how rembrandt felt
when painting night watch.
full of thick, rich burning too immense for language to hold.
this girl, this girl in the midst of life after. this girl so good
she’s put meaning back into the messy coming of spring.

you have learned not to trust. not to believe.
to love with a window open, a hand on the door,
in case of incineration, ready to run.
but this girl, says your heart,
says the peachy light bleeding onto her lips and nose,
this girl is not like those who came before her.
you’ve been a stranger to yourself for so long, but this girl
is reintroducing the two of you, rubbing you raw with longing.
do you understand, you want to say to her,
how stunning you are.
standing there like that. in your sincerity and laughter, as it weren’t
breath snatching to witness. as if it were commonplace,
unexceptional. as if you weren’t the tenderest work of art.

do you.
claire Jun 2017
i. the 1st week is the rapid hemostasis. the fabric of your body clutching itself together, rushing to staunch the bleeding. you breathe and oxygen settles in your chest like needles. you are so tired. you, in your continent of pain, will never be enough of anything for anyone. you burn softly as your cells scuttle to repair the damage. you burn in silence.

ii. the 2nd week is the inflammation. the itching and swelling of flesh. the fingers you move over your own body, holding your hips quiet. your **** is no longer a ****, but a rumpled and puffy city, a strange piece of art, a crime scene after the police have left where everyone is sweeping up shattered glass. someone’s murmuring a poem of soul and death over the radio. it might be you. everyone is shouting and the radio is getting louder and the crime scene is turning into an emergency room and the doctors are flying around in their yellow haste and there is no oasis, no peace, no open window, until the automatic hospital doors part with a groan and she is there, and you realize you are about to be saved.

iii. the 3rd week is the proliferation and migration. she tells you to remove the gravel from your body before you grow a new skin. so you do, you pull it out with black tweezers and it makes you scream until you are raw and humble. you watch as you mend yourself, sped up, like a tiger lily caught on long-form camera, bursting to life. someone says the words love and breaking and heal. someone says i will take you and i will carry you. is it you or her? does it matter? your skin is rearranging itself. you are pangea, splitting and reattaching to new places. it should be violent, but it isn’t. she’s calling you in from the cold and you go to her, scabbed up and scabbed over, unable to close your eyes. she takes up your whole field of vision. her lips, her nose. her irises, where you find god and every angel. the only sin here is the distance between the two of you. which you are closing. by the minute. by the second. by the breath.

iv. the 4th week is the angiogenesis. the development of new veins and ligaments. the deeply complicated process of creating new paths for blood to flow. the beating of your heart when she rests her hand on your knee and leaves it there. your tectonic feelings. the way you look for her in a crowd. the sudden daylight.

v. the 5th week is the  reepithelialization. a big, funny word that sends heat all through you. it asks questions. like: when you broke, did you know you would stop bleeding? when you lay prone in a pool of your own carnage, did you know that Good And Beautiful still belonged to you? that even in that crushing agony, she would come to you, and, with her seamstress hands and surgeon heart, put you back together? did you know that the light was never out of reach? that the walls around you were cardboard, not cement? that she would destroy them gently, then draw you from the wreckage? and still see you whole, even with all your throbbing fissures, the parts of you that just can’t add up? did you?

vi. the 6th week is the synthesis. your wound has gone. it’s a tuesday and you are watching her walk to class. it’s dizzying, the way she moves, the way she walks. she doesn’t know you’re there and you would like to keep it that way, because you are a naturalist observing something rare and exquisite, and you do not want to scare her away. she’s the white-hot sphere of the sun in the sky, and with your woundless self, you take her in. you can feel it, when you look at her—the spin of the earth / clouds sliding into other hemispheres / the swarm of your blood cells and pathogens / the aging of trees / airplane turbulence / earthquakes in places you will never see / lava cooling in the ocean / the rings we grow on our hearts—you can feel all of it. she’s turning the corner now, hair ignited. you are in love with her and you don’t want her to be late. she is so beautiful, even though you can’t see her anymore. she’s the last of her kind.
claire Jun 2017
        the sweaty, jacked-up summer is approaching quick
        fired from the mouth of april
        like a bullet from a handgun

       we are fast, beautiful
       ***** like gasoline on someone’s palm
       ***** like fences that hold gardens of shredded tires
       ***** like blood dried on the sidewalk in the shape of a
       tightened fist

       ***** sneakers and ***** hair
       with shampoo that never got washed all the way out

       ***** because of how we love


       with our hands on other girls’ knees and thighs
       like birds out of their cage
       or the statue of liberty punching her light
       into a sky that holds as much desire
       as it holds stars


       rough and sweet and fresh from hell
       crawling to emancipation
       just wanting to love
       just wanting to live

       just wanting to move her hair out of her face
       with our thumbs

     asking to be allowed to want
     what we are not supposed to have


       hot and sweaty like little kids under the covers
       with a flashlight reading
       harold and the purple crayon
       but there is no flashlight this time

       and no picture book
claire Jun 2017
your mother asks you to                                                    
make her breakfast

2. she has lived your life
two and a half times over
she knows everything about the world
and you know nothing
is what she tells you
when she is bending you backward with her voice
when she is loud and searing and immediate
an avalanche woman bringing boulders
to her feet

3. your mother takes up space
she attracts
she magnetizes
you are fighting your way out of her orbit
but it is hard
you perform elliptical rotations
around her and count the seconds
between your words and her rage
it is a bittersweet spectacle
beautiful in its torment
like watching a dying star absorb itself:
this huge white brilliance, this ricocheting sound,
the tears there is no gravity
to catch

4. you look at your mother
the way she mirrors you in reverse
her laugh is your laugh
but not your laugh
her hair hits her left collarbone
the way yours does your right
her pain is blue like yours
but hers is navy and yours looks like a blue iris
when light cuts through it
like the eyes of T.J. Eckleburg
surveying you as you excavate your feelings
all-knowing in their grief

5. your mother is you and she is not-you
so peel the grapefruit and cut it in half
plate the eggs
bring it all to her with coffee
the way she likes it
cream, no sugar

6. forgive her
even though
claire Jun 2017
i have been a TV screen since the day i was born.
all static and scrambling dots, flipping channels,
frenzied with feeling, wringing myself inside out
for audiences who do not notice i am in the room.
i am a TV screen and i have been dark for so long.
but turn me on now and the world will see you,
your eyes, your elbows, your desperately beautiful
force projected onto me like billboard love.
the Broadway of my body covered in your face.
we gleam together. the two of us bending our prisms
until they make a new color, your pixels
pressing into my skin like the first sun
of a new year. like the air we breathe
after coming up, up
from the deep
claire Jun 2017
i do not write love letters often. i am not good at them.
my words are clumsy and ill-fitting. i live in superlatives,
exhaling exclamations, loving at high altitude, among the
cloud vapor and wind, where the sun burns so hard it
bathes everything in holy white. but it is not enough for you.
i drop the pen and pick it up and begin again. i stop and start                    
and stop and start and try to tell you. what you do.
how you live in my lungs and brain tissue and belly.
how you are flammable. how you Glow.

the things i don’t know how to say: they run wild in me.
they squirm. they tell me to tell you that i was alone
on the face of the moon until you dropped from the sky
and showed me something more. until you ran with me
down craters and up dunes. until i fell in love with you
while moon dust settled on our skin like glitter.
i asked you to bring me back with you, and you did.
your lunar flares quivered to life and we ascended,
watching that frozen american flag until it was beyond us.
we kissed on a backdrop of dark matter and i touched
your face in wonder. we kissed and the universe
bent before us. and to watch that happen.
to watch it happen brought a strange, warm pain
that split me in two.

two, as in our hands holding. holding, as in what you do
to my heart. heart, as in this brave drum-beating muscle.
muscle, as what it has taken for us to survive.
survive, as in what you teach me to do each time you breathe.
breathe, as in what i cannot do when i see you coming.
coming, as in breathless. breathless, as in my body.
body, as in rising. rising, as in love. love, as in everything.
everything, as in you.
claire Jan 2017
Tell me how all this, and love too, will ruin us.
These, our bodies, possessed by light.
Tell me we'll never get used to it
- Richard Siken

there are two facts upon which you ground your love:
     1. you are damaged
     2. they are going to leave

you do not come screeching out of your mother’s body believing this about yourself
     you learn how
     over time
     over minutes and months
     over years

you meet people and take them into yourself
     wrap them in your chest so deeply
     you know they will never escape.
     they may exit your life
     walk away,
     go where you can’t find them;
     but not the presence of them
     the core of them
     the feeling of them inside of you
     beating and glowing and sighing
     like a heart
     not that. that will stay. you’ll make it stay

you’ll teach yourself to grip onto those final remnants
     the way a dying person grips onto breath

you will hold and hold and hold
     not letting go, not knowing how to

you’ll grow a well of absence inside yourself
     and nurture it into a great and incredible yearning:
     this hall of memories within you
     these faces you cannot forget

you will call it grief. you will call it

the girl who shows you the truth is
     ballet and brilliance
     you watch her sideways on the bus
     where she sits with her mother,
     face swathed in light,
     profile outlined in radiance
     like the ring of a solar eclipse
     and you have only been around the sun
     nine times
     but god,
     the quiet, uncomplicated
     beauty of her,
     the straightforwardness of
     her warmth—

she is the first person to whom
     you are not biologically linked who sees
     something more in you
     she notices your fire and tends to it
     until it becomes a towering

but the last night you see her
     you are sure you are going to die
     caught in the seats of theater
     in front of a stage on which
     this girl dances
     like she has nothing left to give
     but love
     and an utter lack of

the last night you see her
     she embraces you
     and her hair is curled
     and her lashes are lined
     and her lips are rosy
     and you could scream out with what you
     but cannot explain

the last night you see her
     the elevator doors close
     between the two of you,
     splicing your longing,
     sending you off onto your own
     barren continent

the last night you see her
     you learn that you love
     and people leave
     and that the people you love leave
     and that this is a truth you almost
     cannot bear

[how to turn my grief into something
how not to equate my longing with something
     flawed, something ugly
how to
     rise again
how to

these are the things you ask yourself now
     when you are naked and alone in your loss

these are the questions you stay alive to answer
     because yes, you are damaged
     and people leave
     but that is not everything there is to
     this filthy-heavenly existence
     you cannot seem to

you carry your sorrow like an old handbag
     but you are growing tired of its weight
     preparing to incinerate it and spread the ashes
     the way you spread your devotion:
     bravely, and now,
     without remorse

you are learning that you are damaged
     and wonderful, scarred
     and sacred
     and divine
they are going to leave
     but you will go on in spite of it
     you will go on because this is
     all you have

you and your heart
     and your overwhelming forward momentum

your love
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