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Apr 2019 · 332
EXCELSIOR
Grace Sleeman Apr 2019
Summers in Maine all have a similar rhythm and
tone — teenagers, fresh from high school’s early
morning classes, driving along miles of paved high-
way into the big city (66,000 people, barely a city
at all). We were desperate to feel independent, to
escape what we had deemed boring and mundane.
We would hurtle through the days, splayed like star-
fish on beaches with salt clumping our hair, sorting
through pocket change for enough quarters to buy a
one-scoop raspberry ice cream in a sugar cone. Not
enough sunscreen, but enough time in the sun to render
us pink and sore, patches of skin we’d poke at before
flinging ourselves back into the whirl. There was some-
thing endless in those evenings spent around fires,
slapping our legs to rid them of mosquitoes, licking
melted marshmallows from our fingertips, sandals
discarded and bare toes buried in fine silt mixed with
ash. Once we sat below the lighthouse and ate cherries,
burying the stones beneath the rosebushes around us,
and when our mouths were stained red and our hands
smelled like earth and roses, we drove on, ever looking
for a new horizon.
Feb 2019 · 68
anachronism; acropolis
Grace Sleeman Feb 2019
behind my school there’s a milk processing facility.
they store their milk in giant towers
white, with ladders up the sides.

if i squint at their reflection in the whiteboard,
they almost transform into the parthenon —
no longer crumbling on an acropolis in athens but somehow,
inexplicably here,
resplendent and cold on a back road in portland.

the house of the gods sits shining behind me
reflected in the whiteboard.
Dec 2018 · 87
ken nordine
Grace Sleeman Dec 2018
i am green

         deeeeeeep greeeeeeeen

                        quiet green.

                                     calm green.

      cold like the depths of a frosted pine forest

                                               soft, though
                                                                                                 like moss.
                                                                                                        springy.

                  i'm the green of cucumbers
                        
                        chill and refreshing

                                                                            i thrum like a rubber band
                                                                                      t w a n g e d

      i'm green like where you'd find a body

                                                            some gentle bones

                                                                                           silent waiting

i'm sour and serene

                                                                                               rich and reticent

so quiet and so quiet and so quiet and so quiet and so quiet and so qu
Grace Sleeman Oct 2018
one year i sat with my mom
beneath the reaching canopy of a tree that would fall
less than a month later, a storm that our tiny
corner of the world barely survived; the lilac
thicket in the backyard became a skeletal island
leafless trees shattered around the table where as a child i drank tea

that cast-iron lawn set, small enough for a child’s tea
party, juice poured into cups and served to my dad, to my mom
when the whole world is stormy sea, that lawn set is land,
i barely knew, out there, that soon the axe would fall
that the storm would blow the trees apart, that my parents’ careful lie, lack
of love, lack of energy, would come crashing down on us, hands still holding blue china teacups, the brush strokes delicate and tiny
Jun 2018 · 158
forbidden fruit
Grace Sleeman Jun 2018
i crack open a pomegranate
it bleeds into my palms
deep red
webbing outwards

rivers, deltas, rivulets of
blood spilled
over thousands of years

eve cracked this pomegranate too
her hands stained with its heart
but i wonder
did she not paint adam?

was adam not there, ready to accept
his half of this bleeding fruit?
did she not drag her thumb
across his lips?

were his hands not, too, stained?
May 2018 · 206
i've got you
Grace Sleeman May 2018
i was born with a broken heart
melancholy child
painted in remorseful blue

taught not how to love but
to wait for the end
to expect it like the downswing of an axe

what goes up must come down

but here
with my hands in your hair in the half-light
midnight tears, eye to eye

that **** axe can keep going up forever
Apr 2018 · 65
yearning
Grace Sleeman Apr 2018
how long do we have to be asleep
until we melt together
Apr 2018 · 236
[swinging]
Grace Sleeman Apr 2018
darling boy
not everything is a fight you can win
or need to
let some things
be
let me hold you
choose your battles wisely
Apr 2018 · 150
une chaise
Grace Sleeman Apr 2018
i dragged it up a hill and three flights of stairs
jammed it into a corner
where it barely fit
homework oasis homework throne
smelling vaguely of cigarettes and someone else's perfume
too orange and a little stained
but undeniably mine
independence oasis independence throne
Jan 2018 · 290
afloat
Grace Sleeman Jan 2018
ocean sheets island pillows
not drowning just
treading water
your chest a raft
Jan 2018 · 234
matin, mattina
Grace Sleeman Jan 2018
syrupy; weighty;
saccharine slumber
eyes heavy

your profile's edges
gilt-blazing
early light, sugary bright
sun-sweet lips sleeping

i sink back into sleep
sunrise along ****** topography
Dec 2017 · 110
[[pictura]]
Grace Sleeman Dec 2017
sometimes i wonder

would you love me better
if my skin were marble

if my hands
now broken away
once held drapery?
who loved venus de milo enough to immortalize her?
Nov 2017 · 422
to whom it may concern
Grace Sleeman Nov 2017
he does not love you
but you never needed him
regardless
Nov 2017 · 192
dichotomy
Grace Sleeman Nov 2017
there is grave dirt
beneath my fingernails
i can feel my skin
alight

holy fire, sacred earth
clean and grimy

a singing note
high and sharp
along my bones
Oct 2017 · 404
si vis amari, ama
Grace Sleeman Oct 2017
i don’t believe in angels
but the way your hair fades to silver-gold at your temples
so pale i could kiss it and leave the shape of my mouth
blood-red
makes me wonder
Jun 2017 · 216
vandalism
Grace Sleeman Jun 2017
who taught you
how to hold a grudge
between your fingers
like a cigarette?

who showed you
how to let it sink through your skin
coloring your veins
with poisonous rancor?

was it me?
i am so sorry
May 2017 · 303
oh, emma jane
Grace Sleeman May 2017
when the trees began to leaf
i watched you tilt your face back
and close your eyes
to the warm spring rain

it didn’t occur to me until later
that your eyes were the color of the new leaves

and i could taste the rain on my tongue
Apr 2017 · 363
fulvous
Grace Sleeman Apr 2017
as a child i loved the color yellow

i wove myself circlets
of dandelions and daisies
twined their sticky stalks into my sun-pale hair

i crawled into the forsythia at the bottom of the hill
arranged the cascading branches into a protective wall
surrounded myself with bright flowers

i’d leave with golden pollen
streaked across my skin
Apr 2017 · 502
a voicemail, months later
Grace Sleeman Apr 2017
[laughter]
you’re so mean
also your message thing is really funny
you won’t look at me
also i’m watching you
‘cause you’re walking downtown
and aaaargh
[click]
i found a voicemail the other day from someone i don't talk to anymore and it made me sad
Apr 2017 · 256
it's been so long and still
Grace Sleeman Apr 2017
i can feel your hands still
the places you touched me
have turned
to ash
Apr 2017 · 266
a childhood, pre solstice
Grace Sleeman Apr 2017
when i was growing up, my house was surrounded by blackberry thickets

my brother and i would take yogurt cartons from the kitchen,
sneak out too early --
when the sun was still just painting the tops of the trees with liquid gold
when the summer heat was still just an idea
dewy and fresh in our throats

in my memory our entire lives were july mornings
our feet bare, even in the tangle of thorns and grass
my hands were always sticky with blackberry juice,
mouths and cheeks stained purple
the berries sun-sweet on our tongues

there aren’t many pictures of us from those days but
i am sure we looked like summer hellions
what with our tangled hair, curls bleached blonde from the sun
freckles wild across sunburned cheeks and knees scraped ******

dirt on our palms
berries in our mouths
sun in our eyes
Grace Sleeman Feb 2017
it’s the kind of day that is hard to explain

the kind of day that feels like something is coming
maybe rain
gray clouds reflecting pale purple
into the atmosphere

the kind of day that is blustery
but still and silent at the same time
the kind of day that

w a i t s

it’s the kind of day that used to be my favorite
she would catch my hand after last period
and we would get in her car
and just drive

sometimes we’d get lost
and end up at the sea
watching it stretch to the horizon and further
the same pastel gray as the sky

and then it would rain
the sky would break, then
raindrops spattering the windshield
and the only real thing left
would be the two of us

w a i t i n g

s a f e

s t a t i c
Feb 2017 · 250
n/y/c
Grace Sleeman Feb 2017
this city
it catches you

snags your clothes your skin your thoughts
pulls you back

you climb through a small window
sit on a fire escape too high off the ground

they say it never sleeps and tonight neither do you
breathing in the scent of rain as darkness falls

the streets are ambient
rumbling ahead
a populace with a place to be

you are leaving in the morning
back on a bus bound for nowhere

and you close your eyes to soak it all in
maybe you can take the clamor of the city with you
store it in your bones

so that late at night when things are too quiet
you can
remember
Feb 2017 · 901
ashes; dust; salt
Grace Sleeman Feb 2017
the biggest change is the sea

i was born from it;
lived with its salt in my hair
on my skin

the town where i grew is drowning in the atlantic
the cries of seabirds echoing through empty streets
everything softened and weathered
by the salty sea-fog rolling in

i used to think it was suffocating
the permanent scent of the sea on the air
the buoys always clanging in the early morning
echoing across the glassy water

but i can tell the difference immediately
the day i move
the air is heavier

there is no sea-salt twang to the wind
only the flat breath of inland
mother earth doing her best with what she is given

and until i drive out to the lighthouse
at dawn
and breathe in the sea air
standing on the edge of the world

my skin feels the salt and relaxes
back to where i came from

ashes; ashes
dust; dust
salt; salt
Grace Sleeman Feb 2017
love is the taste of her favorite food
sweet on your tongue
not because
you like it
but because she does

it is
patience;
waiting for her to be ready
to tell you about the heartbreak
you knew was coming
from the beginning

love
is merely squinting
against the early-morning sun
because he is asleep
across your heart
and to move is to wake him

it is knowing
that even when you cannot see the stars
he can

love is sitting in an empty hall
its silence heavy on your skin
and then hearing
an accordion begin to play
down the hall
Feb 2017 · 333
codependency
Grace Sleeman Feb 2017
it rains the first weekend i am home

we fell asleep early this morning
twined around each other
like if we left even an inch of space between us
we would be separated again

when the sun rises
i uncurl from you
tiptoe out to the kitchen
linoleum cold on my bare toes
and i let myself breathe
for the first time since leaving

i wrap myself in my mother’s old jacket
and dash out to the car
an oasis of quiet and calm
amongst the thundering downpour

and i cry
for the loss of you
the loss of what once was
the loss that will come in the next months

the rain pours down around me
my skin damp
with tears;
with rain

and as i tilt my head back to look at the sky
through the foggy glass window
the car door opens
a breath of fresh air rushes in

and you are here
next to me
your hair sleep-mussed
shoulders spattered with raindrops
and for the second time since leaving

i breathe
i wrote this the first time i came back from college and saw my best friend, and even though it hadn't been a long time since i'd seen him it felt like eight hundred years
Feb 2017 · 193
to build a home
Grace Sleeman Feb 2017
the bad days are frequent
darkness settling in earlier
everything lit
by too-yellow lamps
a crisp dryness in the air
it feels like if you swung a bat
the sky would crackle
and it is harder to get out of bed
to look myself in the mirror
but i do anyway
take deep breaths
wipe the smudged makeup from beneath my eyes
scrub my fingers through wet hair
treat my body delicately
with lenience
as if it were not mine
because though i may not like it
if it were not mine
i would want it
taken care of

— The End —