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Denise Jan 2016
After our 3rd 16-hour shift we skipped down the gravel road in the 4 am dusk holding still numb hands
hysterically laughing about a snowman made of ****** fish ice and decorated with intestines
to our room of splintered walls and sand infused beds.

Drunk on sleep deprivation and the movement of the conveyor belts
Fiona demanded of the 4 am twilight that our work be easier tomorrow
I told her that tomorrow could always be the hardest
she told me that I’m Eeyore because my contemplation always looks a bit like pessimism.

A week later I stuck my finger in the pus filled lesion of a salmon
and worried that I wasn’t existing well enough
I asked Fiona if she thought we were more ourselves dressed in layers of sleep deprivation
She cut 3 tails and stated that we must experience more life when we’re awake for 18 hours a day.

This place had forced the clean carefully constructed versions of ourselves to collapse
but she didn’t want this coarse damp translation of humanity to be what we intrinsically are.

Water and pink slime slid down my rain gear as I processed her words and the fillets sliding by
60 salmon later she spoke again
“You said once that every person you meet has some sort of impact on your life.
Maybe you’re always you but never the you that you were before this moment
because who we are is infinitely changing
we won’t always be grime.”
Denise Apr 2015
My mom sends me a text almost every Sunday.
It reads “I love you daughter of mine.”
I respond with “I love you too mother of mine.”
It’s the 3rd year of this weekly text exchange,
I love her more now than I did in the beginning,
10 hours of distance has smoothed her edges and mine.

But this ritualistic exchange is hard.
I don't love the word daughter.
The word daughter makes my skin crawl.
It implies girlhood,
promises womanhood,
gives a chance of motherhood.

The word daughter means my mom is seeing something in me that isn’t there.
She’s seeing what she wrote on my birth certificate,
what she forced others to see when she wouldn’t let me cut my hair short,
allusions of an ill-fitting label.

I am not her daughter,
I am not another son either.
I am not even a child anymore,
though I am still hers

Her flesh and blood and tears and words are part of who I am,
I don’t know how to explain the rest of me.
I don't want to make her feel like she lost a daughter,
But I don't want to continue letting her think that she ever had one.
Denise Mar 2014
My nerve endings are infested with spiders
their creepy crawly legs tingle up my spine as I sit in class
teeth bite at my shoulders while I dance
poison is spat into my bloodstream
sharp toes stab into my thighs, my jaw, the palms of my hands

burrowed inside my joints
every morning screaming
as every knuckle pops and aches
daily wars waged in my intestine
rustling in my every pore as I lay awake at night
my sleeplessness makes them cry acidic tears
that run in rivers down the inside of my skull
someone please exterminate me
Denise Feb 2014
Butterflies primarily drink nectar from flowers
sometimes they lick minerals from the decaying flesh of dead bodies
they're also attracted to the salt in tears
as a child I read that having them in my stomach would be a good feeling
but I don't know if I'd describe this that way
maybe I'm a fully functioning ecosystem
but there are no environmentalists protecting my heart
one day a bulldozer is going to crush me
the building that goes up might be prettier than this
maybe the signs of my impending excavation are already up
I don't want to read them

right now she makes me feel
like a leaf
panicking as her eyes send me spiraling from my tree
falling slowly
without control
fluttering over the earth for months
thinking Oh God Oh God Oh God
maybe if she loved me I'd be grounded
we'd be mulch
improving the soil quality

but there are prettier leaves from better trees
I can't choose when to fall
if she knew
I think she'd tell me to stay on my tree
I don't think she'd choose me
but my life will never be an evergreen

I don't know if she's a leaf too
if she is she isn't falling
she's staying on her tree
green and thriving
she's so much stronger than me
she's not afraid to ask questions
she only blushes when she drinks
she doesn't fall easily
I am so afraid
reddening and falling are parts of my life cycle

she's a tree
the most beautiful tree
full of music
a sun dappled universe in her own right
and I am not a scientist
I don't understand the universe
but I know that her nostrils flare when she laughs
her smile might be the best thing to ever be directed at me
the noise she makes to fill long silences is the cutest thing ever
it would take an earthquake to make her fall
and she deserves someone who will rock her world
but I am just a dead leaf being eaten by butterflies
Denise Feb 2014
My mother always told me that “blood is thicker than water”
she meant that the family I was born into was more important than everyone else
but that's *******
the quote itself is *******
people misuse all the time
the original is “the blood of the covenant is thicker than the water of the womb”
it means the exact opposite of what my mother was trying to tell me
the family you choose is more important than the family you're born into

the problem with one line sayings is that they are too simple
the problem with my mother is that she says one line sayings all the time
the problem with how I was is that I believed them
I believed that I'd attract more flies with honey than vinegar
that I should **** my enemies with kindness
that boys will be boys
that I should do unto others as I would have them do unto me
that the family I was born with was more important than the friends that I chose

but outlooks change
I don't want to attract flies
I don't have enemies but if I did I'd want to change them not **** them
I'm not going to be passive
I will do unto others the way that they want me to do unto them
I don't have to talk to a family who doesn't want to fix things

because I want to fix all of the things
and sometimes to fix things you have to destroy the bad parts
so I'm burning so many bridges
I'm watching them go down in flames
and from the ashes I'm building a life
that is more honest than any one line saying could be
Denise Feb 2014
Since the age of 10 I've thought that grieving is a weird thing, maybe it’s because no one told me how to do it, and you’d think they would have
because, people get cancer, give up, have heart attacks, are murdered and drown. People die and people are dying, and it’s always been hard
once I expected it and six times I didn’t, and seven times I prayed, but I don’t know if I believe in anything that I can’t see, that’s why I’m bad at chemistry, why praying is still something I do sometimes
because entropy increases and we always lose, loving people makes me vulnerable, I realized when grief was punching me in the kidneys that everything is entropic, I didn't know how to let the chaos out, grief is an emotion that lived in my soul and grieving is a process that I didn’t know the ideal outcome of
once I googled it and I read the 5 steps. I thought I’d maybe done the last two but those were someone elses steps and mine were different
I learned how to knit so I could knit my soul back together. I don’t know if I believe in souls but something was in pieces. I painted my toenails the colors of mermaids, but I was so scared of water, and I still am but I swim anyway. I devoted parts of my heart to drawers full of glitter and goat cheese and long skirts.
there was a point when the grief was an itch in that thing that was once completely shattered, those pieces never seemed to fit back together again quite right. I realized that sometimes rips are too big to sew back together sometimes you need patches. There was a time when my patches were food and swings and books, things that I thought were enough because they couldn't leave me, but that’s like patching rain gear with suede it lets all the salt water through and everything gets colder. There are better materials in the world for patches, literally and metaphorically
literally that metaphor is inadequate, because in that metaphor people are what became patches on my rips, but the people who are gone can't be patched over with more people, there's always going to be holes there.
people are quilt squares in the quilt that I need to wrap myself in to make everything seem okay, the quilt is ripped and the tatters are ugly in a way that only once beautiful things can be, but more squares are sewn on every time I love someone. Maybe it's enough to keep me warm  
the threads are my heart strings, all of them, because all of my heart is for loving people and loving the world. later I figured out that I had to love myself too because the only way I could get through the feelings of loss and the feeling of being lost was to love everything more than I thought I could. To hug more, cuddle more, express more
and that’s hard because it still makes me vulnerable and the quilt keeps ripping. I keep sewing because, maybe the ideal outcome of grief is love, and if it isn’t
it is what grief has taught me
I posted a version of this poem on here a couple of days ago but then I added a lot of stuff to it so I decided to delete the earlier version and post this one instead. The formatting has changed because it's meant to be a spoken word piece for an open mic that I'm going to in a couple of weeks.
Denise Feb 2014
when I say that people make me anxious
I don't mean it in an I don't like public speaking way
or in an I'm nervous around groups of people I don't know way
both of those are very true
but my anxiety encompasses more than that

it's when 3 times within an hour I texted my best friend, who had assured me 17 times previously that he loves me, and he didn't text back and the fear that he didn't love me anymore because I am too clingy became an all consuming ache in my stomach
it's when after spending ten hours talking with a girl who'd told me that she avoids people she doesn't like and saying 3 stupid things in those ten hours that I couldn't fall asleep for hours afterward, not because of the residual butterflies of our interaction but because the weight of my sheets was the weight of those 3 things and I was trapped as my mind fluttered over them, over and over them, I convinced myself that that beautiful person would never want to spend time with me again
it's when I spoke one poorly worded sentence in class and my face burned like a forest fire and for days I smelled smoke every time I thought about how much my classmates must abhor me for speaking at all
it's when I  chewed the inside of my cheek to shreds while I didn't tell my brother that his misogynistic jokes weren't funny because I thought that criticizing his humor would remove me from the spot of favorite sister even though I'm his only sister
it's when I'm afraid that cutting my hair short will make me too gay for my mother to keep loving me despite the fact that drunk texting her on thanksgiving about a crush I have on a girl did not
it's when I don't wave at people first because when I do wave at people and they don't wave back I assume that they didn't wave back not because they didn't see me but because they don't like me
it's when my hands shook as I apologized to my doctor for being sick all the time
it's when I did't tell my therapist all of my problems because I don't want him to hate me for being so weak
if I were rain I'd apologize for falling because I apologize to everyone for everything that I am

people make me anxious because I love people and I want them to love me back
people make me anxious because I feel that I am too much and not enough
people don't make me anxious because of people, people make me anxious because of me
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