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Jul 2017 · 691
Foreclosure
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.
Jul 2017 · 658
Recurring Dream
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.
Jul 2017 · 520
Patient Number Four
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.
Jul 2017 · 290
On the Schoolyard
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.
Jul 2017 · 174
Rebirth
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.
Jul 2017 · 615
98th Percentile
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.
Jul 2017 · 279
For Lindsay
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.
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Don’t ask me how I feel about food
because you’ll find yourself lost in stories
that glorify pathological eating patterns.
Yes, I am a loud-mouthed *******.
Yes, I will tell you
about the time all I ate on a Wednesday
was a single mustard packet
and you better believe I held the near-empty plastic sleeve
under my desk
ripped it open
and brought the splayed-out wrapper to my lips.

How about the Saturday night my roommate left
for her boyfriend’s house.
I waited for the sound of her car
pulling out of the driveway
then spent the next two hours
eating bowl after bowl of frosted cereal
and throwing them up one after another
until I couldn’t feel my jaw.
Jul 2017 · 221
Denial
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
When I say “I don’t think I have a problem”
What I really mean is that
Some people have to break themselves
To prove that they are worth
reconstruction.
Jul 2017 · 300
Bricks
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
At night my emotions sit on top of me
like bricks
The monster in my head reads a bedtime story about
A fat girl who does not eat.
It is a tragedy disguised as a triumphant heroine’s quest,
read in the voice of my mother.
I do not remember what the girl is looking for,
but she keeps going, keeps digging her nails into the Earth,
searching for the promises that her monster makes.
She finds bits of debris that she cannot name
and fungus and grains
of sand that cut like sea-glass.
The monster sighs,
“Just keep digging and you will find victory,
happiness, safety, and love.”
The girl becomes confused
and falls into the dug-up ground like a limp fish,
she cannot breathe underground,
and she ***** dirt like air.
Jul 2017 · 325
Breath in the Madhouse
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Breath in the madhouse
freezes in air like ice.
The drip drip drip
of life
turns inward like a hooked nose.
It is time for the melting,
it is time to have your own breath caught
and put away neatly like mugs in a cabinet,
away from the lips,
away from the throat
with its noble muscles.
It is time to be saved
from your own spent mouth
that bleeds ***** and lies, lies, lies.
Jul 2017 · 269
Supplement
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I stare down my straw.
It’s floating in a cold beige soup
that I must drink
like some perverse mother’s milk.
Two table wardens pretend not to stare.
But they do stare
in quick flashes and sideways glares--
they’re supposed to be my mothers
teaching me how to get fat again.
The clock ticks forward
its hands make puncture wounds in my eyes
that mimic mouths.
I shift in my chair and my thighs slide
in my own anxious mess.
One warden opens her mouth to speak
but a cough comes out instead.
I do not take a sip
and the clock yawns.
I do not take a sip
and the clock gives up its patient dance and
the warden who coughed pours the contents of my glass
down the drain.
I ask if she could pour me out too--
*****-by *****.
She rolls her eyes at the spread of my thighs
that beg to be fed--
I do not drink.
Jul 2017 · 283
AIDS and Suicide
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
It’s common knowledge that nobody dies of AIDS,
it’s the common cold or bronchitis or some other infection
that annihilates the broken immune system.
Alternatively, people with AIDS die
of suicide.
I didn’t even consider suicide an option
until you bolted your front door twice
and strung your neck up with a rainbow silk tie.

I don’t have AIDS,
I don’t even have the common cold or bronchitis,
but I do have a long gold cord under my bed
coiled up like a snake curling around its own head.
I do not want to die today, but I checked tomorrow’s forecast
and it sounds like the perfect day
for my madness to burst outward in hot yellow rays
as I choke on my own grey spit
and fatal sins.
Jul 2017 · 142
Your Lips
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Your lips open to me like a flower
in need, and
you press into me like I am the sea
and you are the rain,
and we speak in silent waves,
untamed.
Jul 2017 · 272
Women Like Me
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Women like me
tear their hair out
over things like this--
calories in peanut butter
the bit that’s left on the spreading knife
after your sandwich is stacked and sliced in four neat triangles
(you already dipped the corners in bleach)
Blood in your toilet bowl
from vomiting too passionately
your esophagus is eating itself up
(you don’t go to the doctor, you don’t even tell your mother)
A clogged kitchen sink
the disposal blades wound tightly
with the spaghetti you poured out like tight little worms
(you blame your roommates for the mess)
And the quiet ache of every muscle
that refuses to relax
when all you want to do is sleep.
Jul 2017 · 265
You Are a Rose
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
My love,
you are a rose in a locked room
with antique furniture
and curtains that cover windows, half-open.
They are stained yellow from years of sun
and cigarette smoke.
You rooted yourself here to protect your petals from grubby hands
that wanted to pry you outward
and color your thorns red.

A sparrow calls out, and you turn toward the sun
that makes itself known in bright stripes.
The light causes you to gleam brilliantly
despite the dust,
despite the silence,
despite the fear that you wear
like a winter tarp.

Your first instinct is to reach out and join
the light and the birdsong,
but you remain
because your stem is brown and splintered.
And anyway,
only this room knows your name.
Jul 2017 · 181
Vulnerability
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Becoming vulnerable is like
skinning an orange that is unsure
of its own ripeness.
Jul 2017 · 285
Two Anxious Women
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Two anxious women sit across the table from each other
interrupted by two dishes of food,
two glasses of water,
and six utensils resting on paper napkins.
One thinks to herself,
“Is this sickness?”
the other,
“I am the sickest.”
The sick picks up her fork and licks the tines,
preparing it for a bite that will never arrive in her mouth.
The sickest folds her arms across her chest
and pushes her dish away with her eyes
and they sit in silence
with loud eyes and trembling hands
willing their fear to disappear.
Jul 2017 · 288
Today I Woke Up
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Today I woke up with holes in my hand,
the stigmata of a failed human
who tried to starve her way to divinity.

These hollows are heaven’s rejection letters
spelled out in limp flesh
and dried blood.

When my mouth begs for water,
these hands cannot scoop up a single drop
from life’s grand wells.
And anyway, my mouth was sewn up long ago.

I hold both hands outward, towards the light.
They do not warm, they only burn,
and anyway, I cannot see the light
through frosted eyes.

My fingers hang from their spreading base
and cannot find the strength to fold
along their stiff hinges.
And anyway, my skin tightens like ice.

All that remains is fractured bone
and sea-green veins
that spread like spider’s legs
strong on a broken loom.

I cannot create if I cannot breath,
the pen’s ink separates like stolen air
drawn through a sieve.

Creation breeds life, endless drops of life,
but I shut that door on myself
and it’s still jammed in its latch.

The oxygen around me hides in small corners
and speaks in a whisper,
“you do not tempt me.”

Blank pages read like foreign print
and speak in ancient tongues,
unheard and unread.
Jul 2017 · 103
The Modern Moon
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
The Modern Moon turns away
from us,
betrayal stinging her eyes
like venom.
She hides behind dark clouds
and waits for mercy to rise
and clear her mind, while she dreams
of majesty.
Jul 2017 · 147
The Love Plant
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
The love plant on my night table
oozes its green slime,
reaching out to my bed with its finger-vines.
It offers me a tendril, promising a new taste,
something foreign and fresh,
a primer for love.

I let out a morning sigh
and coil a generous vine around my index finger
like a ring,
but I do not feel the ache of possession
like the silver band in my jewelry box
offered me.

If the plant could speak,
it would whisper softly,
“you do not need anyone
to make you complete.”
I dab my finger in its thick jelly
and **** hard,
swallowing its sweetness.
It tastes like a beginning.
Jul 2017 · 286
The Butcher in Me
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
The butcher in me
tears muscle from bone.
I say to my father,
“I can’t do this anymore.”
“This” being a project of blood and sweat
like the science fair project I stayed up all night to perfect,
do you remember?
But I am not a vinegar volcano
or a lopsided solar system
strong on needle-thin wire.
I am an animal skinning itself
in the face of a bear--
but the bear is invisible.
“Is it really even there?”
I ask.
You do not know the answer,
you do not even hear the question
because of the glass in my throat
and the powder on my tongue.
So I claw myself open and out
and you close your eyes and mouth
and the maybe-maybe not bear remains
as my bones break under the weight of fear.
“I wish things were different,”
I say
as the sun closes its doors
and my shadow sinks into the earth.
Jul 2017 · 221
Small Talk
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
We are sitting on your floor smoking cigarettes
You ask me how my day has been
I ash my cigarette and say
In the most casual way
“I’ve thrown up seven times today”
You ask if I’m contagious
I feel my throat let out a laugh
That is half pride
Half shame
You barely know my name
And I’m already chasing you away
Because I’m too sick to hide my pain
But not sick enough to let you know how it feels
To speak in a language of violent expulsion
Where syllables etched in the fibers of food
Link together to spell out words
in toilet water
And these words sink into messages that tell me that
I’m doing the right thing
The necessary thing
And that this is the only way for me
To speak.
Jul 2017 · 226
I Planted Myself
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I planted myself in sandy ground
so I bend,
loose and unsupported,
roots hanging like alien arms
that do not grow.
My stomach drops to my feet
as the sand begins to swallow me.

There is a war underground,
a battle for growth that I did not enlist in.
I fold into the sinkhole from which I emerged
and pray that my hollowness served a purpose
for worms and microscopic beasts.

I laid myself to rest in my own womb
and swore to god that I was never human,
animal, plant, or pest
to begin with.
Jul 2017 · 241
Ghost Stories
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
There are many things more intimate
than ***.
The closest I ever felt to you
was when we shared paranormal encounters.
We were walking hand-in-hand uphill
and you told me about a little boy
with coal-black eyes
pure pupil
who hovered above your bed.
His expression said “help me”
yet you hid from him
and his childish desperation.
I squeezed your hand tightly
with my own lovesick desperation
and told you about the time I was either abducted by aliens
or the government.
There really isn’t much of a difference anyway.
You squeezed each of my fingers individually
when I told you how it felt to be brainwashed
halfway between my bed and their headquarters.
We slept separately that night,
warm enough from this exchange
and suddenly unafraid.
Jul 2017 · 130
Falling
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
It is hard to accept the truth
that falling can be a good thing.
Like falling into a pitch-dark room
to look for the things you’ve lost.
Like falling between the page and the pen
to pause the expression of the inexpressible.
Like falling backwards into the sea
to leave an imprint on the floor.
Like falling from a climbing tree
to kiss the concrete.
Like falling in love with your own breath
to slow the onset of death.
Jul 2017 · 297
Eleven Dead Women
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I am living with eleven dead women--
rather, I am dead with eleven others
just like me.
Even the fat ones
are all snapped bone
and skin so thin you can see right through
to the blue veins.
Our skin, our veins, our bone
come from one mother,
monstrous and controlling.
We sit like puppets on strings
but at night we lie with death like animals.
Jul 2017 · 370
Donald Trump
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
I guess you could say
that I owe my first gratifying ****** encounter
to Donald Trump.
The votes are being tallied
I climb on top of you
The analysts are shaking their heads
I place your hands on my hip bones
They’re calling for a recount
I let you live inside of me
The are calling it a night
We **** all night
Are we on the brink of another world war?
Jul 2017 · 399
Doctor Dearest
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Doctor Dearest,
when I ask you to drip sweetness into my veins
do not tell me that life looks better
with stuck-open eyes and *******.
I want to feel my arms light up with the anticipation
of release.

Do not prescribe me rest, I’ve had enough of that
to make an infant cry out in envy.
And anyway, my bed is stone
and my blanket is fire spun into thread.
Sleep does not tempt me unless
it is guaranteed.

Do not tell me to eat
or unfold your little pyramid,
a stack of sins that weigh on me
with the full force of an iron curse.
Food does not welcome me into its yellow-walled home--
it senses desire and punishes me.

Do not pull a magic pill out of your hundred dollar hat
and fold my fingers along its dusty edges
because I will crush it under my weight
and piece it back together with spittle-thread,
the glue of a starver’s refusal.

Do not promise me that time heals pain
when I’m not even an inch up this mountain.
My feet cannot balance on footholds
carved in mud,
and my hands were stolen
from a chest in my own ghost’s attic.
They haven’t been used in this lifetime.

Doctor, Sir, do not tell me that I am sweet enough
to tempt even the fullest stomachs
and the tallest men.
I know the taste of dirt
because it sours my tongue and scrapes my throat.
And I am tired, so tired
of digesting Earth
when I wasn’t meant to be fed.
Jul 2017 · 288
Are These the Demons?
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
You, the therapist,
tell me to imagine my uncontrollable urges,
shame, and despair
as reptilian demons lurking
below the ship that I sail across
an unknown sea with no land in sight.

I tell you that the demons are me,
many-headed and armed with unlit torches
that search for fire underneath my skin,
inside my veins.

I dig my nails into my chest,
trying to claw out the shame that sits on my heart
like a cinderblock.

There is no ship, there is no sea,
there are no heavy planks below my feet
to separate the humanness from the monstrosity
that twists my insides into red-hot twine
and bruises my skin so easily,
like it was meant to be.

You, the therapist,
cling to your metaphor with an iron grip.
I, the monster,
try to claw out of my own skin,
but I do not have a map,
and I cannot imagine your sea that leads
to the promised land
because my eyes are turned inward,
searching for blood to tame the shame
that burns in me.
Jul 2017 · 268
Knuckle Talk
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Have you ever seen your breakup
At the bottom
Of a toilet bowl

Last night i treated myself
To a three-course meal
Of mustard, spit, and toilet water splashback

Have you ever reached into the back
Of your throat with spider fingers
Digging for the right language
To communicate your pain
Spoiler alert: you won’t find it down there

But you will find:
Thick mucus
Strings of blood
Nail polish chips
And stripped knuckle-skin

And every time you pummel your four longest fingers
Back-and-forth against the back of your gag reflex
You’ll be pushing yourself deeper
Into the grave that nobody knew you were digging
Jul 2017 · 270
Breakfast Date
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
This morning I sit at the kitchen table in front of my breakfast
in my stock-photo temporary apartment
and try to shed my shame.
But how do you break up with the feeling
that’s anchored your mind to your stomach
for twenty-two years?
I do not want to eat this food,
this soggy shredded wheat and overripe banana.
I want nothing to do with food at all.
I keep trying to file a divorce with food,
but the shame remains,
regardless of how tightly
I hold onto food, to nourishment to a chance
that one day I will wake up naked
without shame on my shoulder
whispering into my right ear,
“You are too much, you are too **** much.”
Today the whispers echo across the apartment
and circle back to me on a loop.
“You do not need food,”
I watch the milk soak into the soggy wheat squares
until they fill like balloons.
I wish they would float away from me
and take the shame with them.
But today I listen and obey,
I do not need food anyway.
Jul 2017 · 307
When You Asked
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
They gave you a crown of thorns
when you asked for roses
and anyway, the Earth has gone on strike
and the sun only beats down on wise men
who tan like leather and see stars in the light.

They gave you vinegar
when you asked for wine
but vinegar cannot imitate grapes
and grapes do not grow
when the soil does not sit in God’s hands.

They gave you milk
when you asked for blood
but the milk sours like lemons left to rot
and anyway, milk cannot fill veins
or pump air like lungs.

They gave you fire
when you asked for ice
to cool the head in your head
from the monster who made a home inside
and planted a dying garden.

They gave you wood
when you asked for bone.
Don’t they know that wood rots undersea,
and your limbs are swimming in the sheets
they lay down for you on a silver bed.

They gave you air
when you asked for lungs,
so you heave with bugged-out eyes
and your blue veins drain out
of your callused hands.

They gave you food
when you asked for life.
Why don’t they understand that food turns your stomach round
like a thorned crown
positioned on its side.
Jul 2017 · 655
The Collectress
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Your hands spell trouble--paradoxically,
in red bruises that swell and blue
veins that reach outward
past the skin,
searching for something fragile but intangible--like the song
of a rare bird or the color that a peach turns
one moment before ripeness--to cup in your hands
and then preserve
in the wooden box bolted down
underneath your bed--if only
you could figure out how to open it.

The box locks and unlocks
spontaneously
and you were never given a key.

Sometimes you hang from your bed
upside-down
and try to tease the box open with your eyes,
praying to the absent stars that your brain will fall
through to the top of your skull
and click open the lock with its flipped-over thoughts.

You wink at the lock and it winks back,
but does not reveal its contents
and only flirts with the idea of openness.

After a while you swing yourself upright and lie with open hands
until your palms’ little collection of colors and sounds floats toward the ceiling
in an exhale so quiet, it borders on silence.

And you close your eyes,
allowing the darkness to empty your mind
of its divine fullness.
Jul 2017 · 261
This is Not a Horror Film
Clare Margaret Jul 2017
Scene:
  
3 A.M.

The Husband and The Wife lie in bed,
asleep.

The punch line:

3:02 A.M.

The Wife, stubbornly inert,
had not yet shut her eyes.

She is practicing the art of stillness
in the midst of a bloodbath

3:05 A.M.

soon to be brought about by her own wretched hands.
Above the sheets, she grips
the mirrored blade she stole from Williams-Sonoma
at 12:12 P.M., yesterday.

The husband breathes,

3:15 A.M.

bathed in sick, sick ignorance, but,
as the wife knows in all 206 of her bones,
not a drop of innocence.

She does not concern herself with the (During: 3: 51 A.M.)
****** itself,
even as her weapon slides cleanly between the goal-posts,
because she is already four steps past this act,

4:15 A.M.

scrubbing herself down with lye
and transferring the stained dish-rags from Wash to Dry.

The Morning After:
doesn’t really matter, it is all a performance
directed by necessity.

The wife stands at her kiln
(what a strange and extravagant wedding gift)

8:00 A.M.

and convinces herself that innocence
is a four-letter word, used exclusively by lying
men like The Husband--
who speak only in threats and backhanded
compliments.

In their fatal blindness, these men lie down in bed--
so very stupidly--
with the targets of their rage, the twisted products
of fear and resentment and bone-cold courage.

And The Husband stands tall with his cruelty--

Even at the moment of death (4:00 A.M.)
Even in the wake of his own burning flesh (8:01 A.M.).

— The End —