Under supervision of the sun, his fingertips are full of love;
when he lives with the moon, hands form fists, the doors and walls have holes—
muscles catch fire:
trying to force infantilization,
sticking nametags to every available swatch of fabric hanging
from her bony frame.
Her skin is peeling like dried paint curls from the wall.
She brushes it down like pushing
up her sleeves, feigning
a tough exterior.
The bathroom door explodes: her palm
is to her mouth; four horse pills
sit uncomfortably on her squirming tongue—
A single blow to her thoracic spine
(vertebra seven through nine, to be precise)
and the tile floor is medicated with
slimy, secondhand acetaminophen.
Pale worn flesh meets rug burn between
the bathroom and the walk-in closet where
she will huddle on the floor, shaking,
tiny bones ready to crack—
strong arms wrap around and pull her close.
Frail child-size hands catch hundreds of tears ‘till
one big, calloused mitt takes over.
His hand is to her little pink lips and
a tiny cold something tries to find a way in—
she greedily devours the lonely pill and
begs for the other three quarters
of her suicide.
Cynical laughter denies her pleas;
her lungs rip stale air from
mothball collections stored upon the shelves,
from shirts hanging stiffly,
ready for action that never comes,
from pants that lay lazily across
cheap plastic hangers.
She siphons O2 with her windpipe:
heaving sobs, obnoxious wailing, disgusting, guttural noises,
black mascara tire tracks—
she would swear on anything that her ribs were going to give.
Hazy home-video recordings on loop in her brain, the words
pound her body like hail and
the memories won’t leave. They’re bleeding
from her ears and eyes and her assailant stares on,
“Drama queen,” he reminds her.
Same as always, she cries
herself sick, he tucks
her into bed. Morning sunshine
shows bruises and she hides them
in her sweater.
Another flimsy paper hospital accessory, more
radiology tech jokes about her clumsy
hands, her butter-fingers.
And when asked her name, there’s
‘cause she’s got to remember which nametag
he let her wear today.