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natalie Feb 2017
it’s like
having a nightmare
you can see someone you care for you love they’re in danger
you open your mouth to yell warn them but
you can only squeak croak they can’t hear can’t hear can't hear
and your vocal chords vibrate with desperation and your throat is empty
you try to run move them push them wake them up
but your legs are stuck can barely twitch
you can feel the kinetic energy rippling in your muscles
but your legs they just won’t move won’t move won't move—

and then you see really finally see
it’s not just someone it’s you it’s YOU
but you didn’t know didn’t recognize couldn’t remember
who fed you thirty pounds what bird has been
pecking red sores into your chin who painted
purple blooms under your eyes and drained your red
your life turned your skin grey like a corpse
who sits on your shoulders they slump in defeat
it’s you it’s a stranger
it’s not right not right not right—

it’s like
you wake up and the nightmare has ended
but you still can’t recognize so you make a mask
foundation give your skin human pallor
concealer covers the pimples you gouge covers the purple petals
blush makes cheekbones full and warm not sallow
black and color gives your eyes a smile the one they lost they forget
you’re proud of your work it is humanoid it is a lie
you have to be careful watch closely
reapply frequently fill the cracks erase them
you carry your face in a bag like some great treasure
they won’t know you’re just a marionette
little wires in your joints smoke and mirror empty hollow
they’ll never know never know never know—

it’s like
trying to answer that question how are you
you want to say I’m not okay I’m sad angry numb riddled with anxiety
can’t sleep can't enjoy can’t help myself can’t even cry
you want to tell them but your voice has been stolen
it runs backwards upside down nonsensical
your tongue is thick tied into knots it lies so easily
I’m fine can’t complain
really you can’t
what about drought famine starvation
what about disease plague death
just ignore that I’m sad give me sympathy
it’s my fault my fault my fault—

it’s like
you’ve been horcruxed in two
one part is small weak quiet it wants to change to change
quit smoking
eat vegetables
run faster
get a dog
do better
be better
see things
go places
be alive ******
but the other part is loud loud loud strong and loud
it tells you stop thinking you’ll be happier
stop thinking
lay in bed for three days straight
stop thinking
drink ten cups of coffee before noon
stop thinking
chain smoke through a convenience store
stop thinking
ignore those messages
stop thinking
close that book
stop thinking
put down that pen
stop thinking
stop thinking
stop thinking
stop thinking
you’ll be happier stop thinking
just freeze right here **** that puny part of you
smash it to bits bury it deep dark
pour concrete over top then build a skyscraper there
one with pretty lights it’ll point at the sky
you'll be distracted you won’t hear it
won’t remember won’t remember won't remember—

it’s like
you’re a brain with a disobedient body you want to listen think feel be
you’re poisoned frozen stuck limbs wither muscles atrophy heart freezes
you're just numb empty nothing nothing nothing—
you’re billy pilgrim
but no alien zookeeper
you’re lady lazarus
but no phoenix courage
you’re just that foot
you do not do you do not do
you just sit in that old black shoe

and if you open your mouth they’ll know they’ll all know they'll know
you’ll speak it into existence
so you sew it shut lose the scissors forget
if you never say it it never has to be real
so you just pretend you just ignore ignore ignore
you're not empty hollow numb you're not nothing
you’re just fine, thanks, and how are you
they love your lie devour it are sated by it
you are sated too
natalie Feb 2015
I was the daughter of winter
when you began to whisper
in my frigid ear. I lifted two
snowballed hands and chiseled
through the solid ice; bitter
words pierced the raw mist
surrounding me, but you were
not disarmed. I tried to stop the
thawing, dreamed lustily of a
rapidly approaching sleep,
that deep freeze and muffled
silence. You stayed, shivered,
and I was suffuse in tender
sunlight, for you were an
Indian summer, a falsehood
by very nature—false hope,
false promises, false warmth.
Your lilting birds and sultry
air enchanted—I was dizzy
and drunk, melting slowly.
You sang in the soft breezes,
danced frantically in the wake
of falling leaves, and swore
with each delicate blue sky:
It will always be this lovely!
But you were just a charade.
I was no more than a pool,
heated from the diminishing
glow of your fervor’s twilight,
and Autumn waited, patient,
as the mask finally slipped.
I've been working on this poem for a long time, and am looking for some feedback. Thanks!
natalie Dec 2014
You were the first one to
take a true interest, that night—
not just drunk lips
clamoring for a mate
or clumsy hands
groping at my thicker bits
but prudent whispers,
that careful waltz.

You were the first one to
kiss me like you wanted nothing,
though we both knew
you needed everything.
I can still recall the distinct
flavor of your mouth
against mine,
how its absence left
my lips swollen,
that triumphant cigarette
a foreign shape as you
walked away.

You were the first one to
see what hid beneath those
winter layers. You were
impatient, ravenous,
but charming.
I was timid, awkward,
and terrified.
Don’t ever be sorry,
you said,
slipping into that
mischievous simper,
but you soon found more fertile soil.
For Matthew
natalie Dec 2014
O slimy tongue!
O patient tourist!
Your slow retreat has
left a lustrous spoor.

How admirable,  
your bold simplicity—
no radiance to distract,
no carapace to fortify.

How you coil and flex,
a solitary finger
sliding across our
forgotten places.

How we yearn to
pet your soft tissue,
to feel its cool shiver,
the recoil of desiccation.

How honest the world
must be from below as
you devour the decayed,
savor that sour brutality.
For C.B.
natalie Oct 2014
He was born in the rendezvous of a clap of thunder
and a shooting star, fully grown and bigger than
a mountain. When they asked him who he was,
he said, A Wanderer, and when they asked where
he came from, he said, She left me, and no more.

But he was ravenous, ate splintering trees with all
their monkeys and birds and lizards, then washed
them down with murky rivers teeming with fish and
frogs and crocodiles. Soon the once-green valley was
a bony desert, and still he wanted more, so he cracked
his teeth on salty boulders, then swept his fingers
across the soil, creating massive tributes to his hunger-
fueled ruin in the soil and licking the grit off of each
digit, savoring the bitter zest of his destruction.

And when his throat was caked, they pointed to
the ocean, and he ran—an earthquake—to the
gloomy deep. He made himself a bed down there
of slime and old shipwrecks, slurping squid
and jellyfish until the day that she comes back.
natalie Oct 2014
On my first Christmas,
I learned that the city of
towering cardboard boxes
and the crunchy ocean
of kaleidoscopic paper were
destined for the trash bag,
but the complicated toys
I could not yet understand
were mine to keep.

Just before my second birthday,
my parents came home
with a pink, wrinkled
bundle of flesh, and said,
This is your new sister.
Though, at first, I found her
beautiful, with those pill-
sized fingernails and the
soft coos she kept pushing
out, I was horrified to
learn that my grandparents
were not taking this baby
with them, that she was
not here for my entertainment.
But the envy soon faded,
and I kept a lifelong friend.

At eight,
I decided not to keep
the magenta cast after
the stoic doctor sawed it
loose. It was caked with
doodles and kind notes, but
it stunk of sour milk, and
the boy with the copper
hair had not signed it.
I could not forget his
taunting laugh as I fell
that day, nor the fiery flush
that shaded my cheeks as he
snatched his hat from my
hand, already numb and
quickly swelling with

By eleven,
I had spent so much of a
childhood tripping over
sentences and paragraphs
and essays that when
my book report bloated
slowly from two pages to
five to eight to ten to thirteen,
I unknowingly conquered my
fear, stumbling over a
voice begging to be kept.

When I reached fourteen,
I had seen two corpses
in one year—one painted
as though in the height of
Expressionism and resting
in a casket so cheap it could
have been cardboard, one fat
and covered in smooth
fur, collapsed onto the cool,
indifferent metal of the
vet’s table—and I learned
that breath is in short supply.
But I also learned that
the destination matters less
than the odyssey, so I
tucked my grandmother
and my beagle into my
front pocket like two crisp
hundred dollar bills, kept them
with me wherever I traveled.
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