there was a slice of chocolate cake in the fridge
and my sister asked me if i wanted it.
i didn't respond, stared off into space
and continued to smoke my cigarette
in the kitchen because mom was
asleep already and it was 1 am
on a saturday in july
and it was hot and we were both braless and hoping
the single fan on the counter would circulate the air enough
to make us comfortable in the cottage that we called home
that didn't have air conditioning in the middle of the woods.
the three of us hadn't moved for three more hours,
instead spent all of that time talking about nothing
and everything the way sisters do
because sisters eventually end up saying all the words that have
to be said
but each time it sounds new even though it never is.
we're all different but the thing about sisters is
that other people always see you as the same.
we all eventually grew into having brown hair
even though i had been born a redhead
and she had been born blond
and she had been born the same shade of brunette
that still graced her scalp but was thinner than the rest of ours
and fit in an elastic pony tail comfortably
unlike mine, which broke those things immediately
and she, who cut hers all off in hopes
to cleanse herself and
keep herself from being weighed down.
I looked out the kitchen window to see the new springtime grass
But fog from your tea on the sill blocked the view.
Rain came pouring down
To expose a sunny day.
You complained your green tea
Was over steeped. It was brown.
Did you open the (cabinet
To get the sugar) from the top shelf?
I used your mug today
As a bowl to hold my soup.
You were raking outside
But there were no leaves to form a substantial collection.
The grass was frogs’ legs
And told you to jump, jump, jump.
Did you open the (shed
To get the fertilizer) from the top shelf?
i am thirteen years old and i think love is a hand
because that was the first thing that made me feel good
and i think love is supposed to feel good so
love is the hand of a boy four years my senior and
love is a hand that holds a joint and
between puffs of marijuana smoke touches my face
before telling me i’m beautiful
and makes promises to call on the weekends while he’s
away at school
but i’m only thinking of whether or not i
made ninth grade honors english
and he tells me he hates his parents
for expecting him to go to medical school
and for expecting him to become successful and
for expecting him to have money
and a family
and a white picket fence
and i wonder what it would be like for parents
to expect anything from me other than
to stop slicing at my skin and to please finish what’s on my plate
but when he asks what i’m thinking about
i just tell him
“love is a hand”
and he looks at me funny with squinted eyes
and i know that his mother does not cry at night
trying to hide bruises from her daughters that already know
that love leaves burn marks on your skin
when love is a hand.
now i’m sixteen and
love is a hand
that shoots up when it sees me
in the hallway between fourth and fifth period and
i’m not one for hugs but when love is a hand
i’ll take two around my waist
to lift me until i yell to let me down, let me down
leaving my cheeks burning red
and flushed from embarrassment
because love is a hand that has never touched me
between my legs and *****
and love is a hand twice the size of my own
that dialed my phone number to tell me
“i asked her to be my girlfriend and she said yes”
i am seventeen and my skin has burned
from staying in the sun for too long
when we went to the beach in the middle of august
and played thumb wars for hours but
you always won because your love was a hand that
was much bigger than mine
and after you kissed me you told me about her.
you always left your windows open, allowing my skin
to freckle and for the sun to leave his
hand prints across my face because you were too
scared of how i’d be if you had left your own
so now i’m 18
and i’m crying
in the mirror because i can’t make out my memories
and i can’t tell which hand print belongs to you
so i cry until i can’t cry anymore and my mother comes into
the bathroom and looks at me in the mirror
and rests her hand on my shoulder
and silently says “i love you”
the way you always did on mornings over my stomach with
your love that was the last hand that burned my skin
on that tuesday night when we watched the ****** suicides
when you told me there was someone else
that there had always been someone else
and that i was the other.
and your hands went frozen and numb and stung
with frost bite to ease the burn that you had left across my belly.
now i’m nineteen and all the boys are the same
they all bite their fingernails
because they’re trying not to love so they chew and they gnaw
until their fingernails are bitten down and bleedy
and your love is a hand that slapped me across the face
because you didn’t have the nails to scratch.
i should have seen it coming when i saw you
bit your fingernails
or when i saw you didn’t touch me except
between my legs and
or when you got burns on your fingers from joints of marijuana
just like my shoulder blades in the sun
and when you got paper cuts all over your palms from
looking at photographs of people that you hate
and i can see that your love was never for me
because i could not love your hands.
and love is a hand.
now i’m 20 and my hands are cold
because in the winter they hide in mittens
hoping that the heat might burn them just a little bit
but it never does
and my love is just a hand,
hiding in a mitten hoping to be lit on fire.
You became the February rain soaking through to my skin
in five minutes time from here to there in a drizzle.
It has to be bad before it can be better (I think that's what they say).
All blanketed in untouched white, it looked like the heaven
that Lucifer loved, and all turned to gloop and glob under
the new rain and our muddied boots
before melting away to ask for forgiveness.
Your mouth is the winter
all fancy like gold
but it's gilt -- and milk chocolate, the worst.
I might have stopped myself (but I didn't)
and my senses were sobered by the too-sweet taste
not dissimilar to that of the cheap drinks you mistook as
my preference. The timing was always off, I know. We bonded
over things we had in common.
Not us, this isn't about You.
I considered the in-between.
Now I have the flu.
It's been one week and seven days.
I have flammable skin and permeable pores,
please forgive me, this is how I was born. My hair gets matted when I sleep
amidst your sheets. I'm sorry. This
view is unforgiving. I wanted to love you but
I watch movies but they're all just fiction so what do I know?
Documentaries bore me but they're fiction, too.
I offer you orange juice, with pulp just how you like, but you say you have acid reflux.
They offer you an orange, ****** and poisoned, and you claim to be ravenous.
you force me to live in my own personal hell.
you look like heaven.
my eyes are never given the opportunity to dry.
she's a lucky girl.
I make noise every second of every day but you don't hear me
tick tock, tick tock
until you check me out
or it's painfully silent.
I resort to screaming
tick TOCK, tick TOCK
but you ignore my every attempt to grab your attention.
I could stare at you forever,
with my face round and pale with many blemishes,
but you won't even give me the time of day
(that's my job.)
Four minutes marks the first.
You've been staring at me for a little while now,
another girl wrapped under your arm.
Three minutes and eleven seconds,
she stares at me too.
Two minutes and forty-three seconds,
Two minutes and two seconds,
I might break, just to make you upset.
One minute and twenty-seven seconds left and I decide not to.
Because that's just the problem -
you'd be upset.
Running up a steep hill is one thing.
I then run down in just half a minute's time.
Walking up is more difficult.
There is strain on my hands for the last portion of that dreadful hour.
Crawling is the worst.
And I have to do it twice a day.
But when I do, people cheer,
just once every painful year.
(In a language I don't speak, you dream and you scream,
and I can't understand what you're saying but you're rooting for me it seems.
For a whole minute I have your attention and
you're on my side the entire time.)
Another year's passed that you turn your attention away
in order to kiss her in front of my face.
But I made it all the way up, didn't I?
I really did, and that's alright.
fish are not cursed
the same way humans are.
fish are not so restricted
in their movements
(they do not have to
jump to get the cereal off the top shelf
in the pantry).
fish do not drown,
in their natural environment.
(a hurricane blows and they can swim below,
maybe ride the waves out overhead.)
fish do not poison
their gills with the words that they speak
the way that humans breathe
from the same sin-tainted orifice
they eat, smoke, lie, and choke.