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Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I am trying really hard to live in this body, but the rent is too ******* high
and the paint is peeling off and
I’m too tired to patch it up.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Have you ever had a recurring dream?
One loaded image that cemented itself
in your memory with the force
of a freight train?

Mine is simple:
I am standing in front of a mirror,
nothing special, no indication of
time or place.
But it is me, and I am standing there,
looking at myself with stiff eyes.
But the eyes are not mine.
They are definitely stuck in my skin,
but they do not roll from side-to-side
or reflect any light.

The eyes are there, and they stay calm
as blood pours out from their bottoms
down to my lower lip--
and it is my lip.
But it is not my blood,
so it must be borrowed.

It might be the blood of someone I used
to know
Or of a stranger on the street
Or of someone famous
Or of my next-door neighbor
Or of someone not quite alien enough
to bleed a color other than red.

All I know is that the blood is there,
running out of me
And every night my tongue rolls out
to taste it, but its owner remains
unknown to me.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Your voice floods my ears
At 6:45 A.M.,
"Patient Number Four, it's time
to do your vitals."

I'm standing in the doorframe
of my hospital cubicle--
right hand in yours, the nurse's,
left hand in the shredder--
or is that the wire frame that's holding
me up like I'm a head on a stake?

"Have you eaten, how long has it been now?"
I try to tell you the truth, but my mouth feels miles away, riding on the train
that you people call my throat.
And my throat has brought me here, to your pristine prison cell because
I betrayed it too many times.

"I need to get your vitals, will you come with me?"
And how do I know, how do I really know
that you are not trying to ****** me
with gleaming round numbers
and records of compliance, cooperation.
How do I know that you are not trying to re-name me in this hospital's file-cabinet language?

"I need you to follow me to the lab."
Why are you trying to take me away
from myself?--
The self I spent so many years
constructing from the bits and pieces
of black earth I dug up eagerly, fearlessly.

I cannot move to your white room--
the other flavor of white reserved
for nurses, not the oatmeal in my cubicle.
I cannot leave this arm with its chewed-up edges or this crime-scene throat
with its flapping lid.

"Please give me your arm and make a fist."
I already told you, or tried to,
I cannot give myself to you.
I have given myself away too many times
under too many names.
And I am tired, so tired,
of chasing myself back to Me.

So you drain me right there in the hallway
and seal me back up
without a kiss--
So I kiss myself on the thick vein you chose and whisper
my real name to myself
Because I am terrified, so terrified
of forgetting it.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I have two kidneys and one
broken tooth.
In grade school a pack of boys
stomped on me, like I was
the **** of a lit cigarette
and they were the rain.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I was born when the sky opened up
and polluted my mind
with its brown ash--
an initiation of sorts.

I was born again when the wind cleansed my skin
with its ferocity--
an invitation to breathe from the surface.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I am in fourth grade--ten years old,
first period, first kiss, first full shave
from armpit to ankle.

The teacher pulls me aside--all smiles
and maternal excitement.
She tells me that my test scores put me
in the 98th percentile.

I **** my head, recalling the soft-lead, the
guarded pencil sharpener at the front of the room,
and the bullseye ovals that tested my mind,
my palm sweat, my straining eyes.

I am in fourth grade--ten years old,
first violent fight with my mother, first homosexual
fantasy, first dressing room meltdown.

The pediatrician pulls me aside--half austerity, half pity.
He tells me that I need three HPV shots, and by the way,
my weight puts me
in the 98th percentile.

My eyes sink back into my face, and the flood doesn’t come
until I am home, curled into my mother’s breast,
wondering how to divide my head into
Focused Student and Focused Starver.

I am in fourth grade--ten years old,
times tables and long division and calories
in an apple and calories burned in a playground brawl.

I learn to count my success in numbers and my failures
in grams, pounds, inches, threats
of fat camp, images of thick yellow fat
sandwiched between my organs.

I am in fourth grade--ten years old,
98th percentile and chewing and spitting and growing
and pinching the body that I cannot call my own--
and numbing the brain that matches the magnitude of my fullness.

I am a split-girl, a shame reservoir spilling
over and out and coating my paper with fractions and plans
of calculated disappearance.

I am in fourth grade--ten years old,
and the teacher’s clock doesn’t stop, and the and the doctor’s scale doesn’t pause
to make room for my magnitude.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I sit outside the piano-room door
and listen to you sing
because it makes me want to be alive.

I imagine myself dancing in the center
of a pearl-white key,
waltzing backward toward the string
that ties song to sound.

You lift a finger
and pause to breathe
and I fall a thousand feet
into the space between silence and noise.

If only your voice were never-ending,
then perhaps I’d fall more softly
or not at all.
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