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Kiernan Norman May 2023
I used to write my poems in the dark, inside a hazy trance,
and cross-legged on midnight carpets.
Specters fanned around my knees like a magic trick, shuffling
gloom like parlor cards at a cabaret and recasting it something elegant.
Magic tricks are just a thing that happen to me.

I’d say a spell and words erupted from my haunted parts;
a sleight of hand for handed slights,
a sleight of heart while handling my own, always wet and dripping.
I collected words like coins and spent them like mourning candles.
Ennui is just a thing that happens to me.

I busked my city for praise, preyed on walker-bys,
stirred up a crowd with my charm and bewitching need,
then watched their eyes lose interest in my illusion, in my luster.
They’d move on, regretting the dollar they placed in my hat.
Dejection is just a thing that happens to me.

My bag of tricks hasn’t charmed in years, but I still polish the leather,
keep my luck tucked inside, try to keep my wits sharp and my candles lit.
I can still conjure up a crowd, spin a pretty phrase, alliterate and allocate,
string words like beads, pluck them like a harp, and hook like a huckster.
Enchantment is just a thing that happens to me.
May 2023 · 102
Opera Gloves
Kiernan Norman May 2023
Dressed for the opera,
abreast in a fight.
Pressed, mixing my mouth
with your gore,
unsure who I’m lighting torches for.

We held a crass kind of funeral
then washed our gloves in separate loads.
I’ve vacuumed meaner shadows from your rug
and ironed colder syllables into pleats
down dress pants, through ribbons for my hair.

You've tried to unknot the longing-
that low ache of a feeling never quite named.
It’s there, somewhere behind your sternum,
stringy, sticky, and bright.
I’ve learned to corrode that carnage
in impolite ways, then wreak havoc all by myself
near the wrought-iron gate where the singing stopped.

I’m making vain jokes,
tongue-trilling venom smoke rings above your head.
You're draining dank drinks,
tongue-twisting for the mouth you had before mine.

Two seats empty in the mezzanine,
two bracelets spoiling in separate drawers,
a too-long gown; hacked and hemmed,
silk gloves anointed by a
carnal evening prayer.
You wear a suit most days,
I want to *****
and gripe in formal wear.

For a moment it’s the feeling of forever,
the inside-taste closing in on never.
Crisp, autumn night,
brisk, dusk fight,
The fall falls, the trees tease,
branches strip their civility-
and so do we.

October- I limber-lithe and lilt,
not even a trace of you in my mouth.
November- I double-knot laces,
bare my shoulders, and start to shiver.
December- I’m back at the gate
singing hymns to an ivy-laced lion face.
I'm searching the dusk for torchlights, groping
for another temper to press my thirst into.

By solstice I’m back on my knees,
ironing pleats atop the hardwood.
I petition ***** litanies to the congregation,
(us; your unmade bed, bare chest,
my inside-taste, our matching bracelets.)
Your heavy gaze and fervid eyes
narrow with each call and response;
ready to pounce.

Dressed for the opera,
abreast in supplications made holy
as we learn our echoes and braid
our mayhem once more.
The only mouth you long for is at your feet,
velvet-warm, and full of prayers you can taste
but not translate, sigh but not speak.

My mouth makes your mouth tease like trees,
match our screams,
cross our hearts, drink, and dream.
We’ll tangle in everything,
empty our cupboards and start again.

We put on our evening gloves.
This afterglow is formal.
playing with rhythm and rhyme
May 2023 · 54
no night poems
Kiernan Norman May 2023
Words stick to skin like bad dreams. Awake,
cold sweat, twisted in sheets with a half-remembered phrase.
Every story has a part of it that's true.
That’s why I lie.

I’m sorry about your bedding.
I’m sorry about my teeth,
about the edge that tells me to laugh when I know I shouldn’t,
and I’m sorry about the way I pull your hair when you’re above me-
I forget that it’s not mine.

I used to collect ideas like friendship bracelets on the last day of camp,
I used to listen to your breath catch in sleep and wish that I had pitched it.
I used to think in stanzas, and sigh into verses,
like a poem about a poem about a poem.

Now I barely think.
I miss thoughts like trains.
I sweat your bed.
I hold your attention like a bouquet,
then knot it like a tourniquet.
I keep patience like a promise.
Now I collect only what I can taste,
only what I can swallow whole.
May 2023 · 49
dog day wading
Kiernan Norman May 2023
Wading through humidity,
adding to humanity-
the Lower East Side,
too hot to be still.
Too old to be kissing on sidewalks,
(doing it anyway.)

Let me show you my leprechaun leap:
run, jump, crash:
eight mimosas deep,
then I’m four limbs down
on a subway grate and laughing.

Twirling in the green dress I wore last time,
like a ******* cartoon character,
and you smile, but just a little.
And I grip, but just a little.

You hold my hand, lean me into walls,
where bricks radiate heat,
and I can’t tell you how lonely
Alphabet City feels
even now.

A heavy, dog-day eloquence,
the sticky camaraderie
of a heatwave, late August:
smirking with strangers,
running through sprinklers
like little kids.

Saluting a little light,
something curling the edges
like damnation,
lifting like prayer,
and I still haven't learned my lesson.
(I can’t rewrite my lonely.
Trying to write your name over it
will only stain more.)

Let’s just keep wading,
keep laughing,
and let the heat do the talking.
I will not say the next thing.
I will not say anything at all.
(I will not say anything at all.)
May 2023 · 62
dry spell
Kiernan Norman May 2023
You can’t outsmart yourself.
You wouldn't be land-locked and writing this
if you could.

      Let’s try something different. Let's find a boat. We’ll meet at the bow, and try to forget what we know. We can start over. We can put our memories on ice and our hearts on hold. We can grow new lungs, and new eyes and our bones won’t ache in the salt water. Let's read the stars, captained by someone born without a lily in their teeth or a map in their pocket. They’ll have an anchor to choke and a rattle to keep us awake.
      Let's sip the coffee of a woman with roots that run deeper than the earth, and speak the steady language of not-wanting. We can learn sea songs, cover our dreams with thick, acrylic paint, and bring our ghosts to life at preapproved parties. We’d all get along so well. I’ll undo the sound of my voice. You'll sweat out the nicotine. We'll eat strange fruit at balmy ports, acquire a taste for the rind, and our scars won't open; we'll be positively flush with Vitamin C and the pipes we've learned to whittle.
    You’ll start to crave the way I smell like rain, taste like salt. I’ll show you what to do when your compass points left and you find yourself on the wrong side of the decade. I'll create a perfect starfish staccato, which is a dive I'll invent and perfect two days in. We’ll build a dream house out of sea glass, learn ***** jokes in morse code, and share a bunk with a man who claims he was born a crow and misses it every day. He might take our bones home to his blind wife after this voyage. He might make flutes from our thighbones, hock them around shipyards, or he might ask us to write his eulogy. He might be the guardian angel for someone who drowned centuries ago, or he might be God. We're fine not yet knowing.
      We're on a boat, after all. We can do shimmery things, like tangle our limbs and kiss in nooks where the light doesn't touch. We can dive for pearls in the shadows of our own thoughts, and keep the sun on our faces. We can all learn to swim like angels and walk like saints. I’ll show you how to make a secret place inside yourself where you can wrestle unspeakable things and then send them into the storm.
      Let's drink cider in the hull, lose our sealegs,  and trace bumpy roots to an older, kinder world. Then let's sit very still and believe in it. Let's tie that kindness around our wrists. Practice our knots or not. Let's pass the bottle back and forth while we trade secrets with winter finches telepathically.
      If we feel like it let's fall in love. Maybe with each other. Maybe with something else entirely.    
      Let’s talk about things we've never said aloud, let's try to put some of our sticky longing and heavy heartbeats into some kind of language. Or let’s pretend the city is only as large as our pockets and as static as the space between our chests. Let’s go back in time and see what would happen if I didn't kiss you on the West Side Highway six months ago. Maybe there’d be nothing to pout over, nothing to pine about. (Heavy heartbeats always find something to pine about.)
      Let’s walk to the sea, let's forget what we know. Let’s start over. I’ll take the train in and we’ll meet for brunch. I won’t get red and loose-lipped from too much sun and *****, and I won’t look for black cats in highrise windows. We'll talk about things that don't sting and the city won't mind the bleak things I say.
      After playing on the pier and not kissing, we won’t walk East, swaying. We won’t stumble into a church and genuflect, then slide into a pew, softly join the Rosary recitation. We won’t bow our heads, or stumble through the Apostles Creed (where was that one during ten years of catechism?) We won’t say Amen with our chest, study the stained-glass, and  our legs won’t leave sweat on the kneeler after we stand.
      We won’t barrel back into daylight where we’re old friends who don’t kiss and I’m still a prize- My cheeks can flush but I won’t let the mimosas get on top of me, or you get on top of me. like it was only a little bit inevitable. I won't babble; completely unhinged and hopeful, or drop my grace somewhere on an elevated train as dusk cradled us both in blue. I'll polish that part of Brooklyn with my poise, not my plea. I won't pray again on the train home, (not on my knees and slipping, but still on my knees and slipping.) I won’t have to meet rueful eyes in the window reflection with only one poem on my lips, ‘Have Mercy on me, Oh God-‘
      I won’t have to sit sad and scalloped alone on a midnight Metronorth, bewildered and blanched, because we’re not here, we’re far away and out to sea. I’m still a prize, and we never have to say ‘Amen’ at all.
early 2023, shaking off dust
May 2023 · 61
railed in a sundress
Kiernan Norman May 2023
After miles of coasting,
trailing a stretch of steel remembered
more as an artery than a scar,

(back when the sun-stained arms
and scratchy palms
that laid each track across
an endless America
felt ageless and exhausted;

gripping great-grandbabies,
bibles and whittled pipes,
fingers coiled and knotted with stories,
ready to spring forth and croon
if only they were asked.)

They didn’t talk much during the in-between:
that window of time when their bodies
were no longer cracking and howling,
rooting rungs into dry grass
from ocean to ocean;
fitting the landscape
with a skeleton of its own-

but before the true rest,
when they'd let their bones shake
out the tight grip of untold tales,
and sink into the dirt they helped carve.

You think of them now as dust,
a rosary planted under pine,
a Sunday grace,
a shared plot,
a middle name.
You do, don’t you?
You’re not really looking.
May 2023 · 70
Kiernan Norman May 2023
I tried mining nuance.
I tried burying my limerence in
parking lots and kicking
gravel over the glowing parts.
My tongue was never that flexible,
and my knees were never that strong.

If I still smoked black cloves
with pigeon-footprint-fingers,
cooing with beaded arms,
and dissected birds,
I would be all in;
I would win this game.

A rabbit crosses the field.
Something caws.
Our clock is dead.
This filthy week has been
wind spun in darkness,
I’m inching towards light.

You’re stitching boring words,
every point you knit cheapens
my morning. I’m just here to gleam.
Daylight rolls toward me,
tasting my cheeks-
all light.

And then I’m gleaming,
warm, illusive, bathed
in a poem sunbeams
wrote because they missed me.

Live knee-deep
in language but be certain
of magic.
Dignity whispers
that you’re sleeping.

Not much closed to my kiss,
not much cracked to my scream.
I want to be a phenomenon.
All light. All gleam.
May 2023 · 35
[We Kiss, We Burn]
Kiernan Norman May 2023
We kiss on the roof,
disturbing time and space.
We hold tight to each other,
watching the landscape quake.

(I point out fires for him to see-)

Six stories down, this street
mirrors my marrow:
young, velvet, ******-
a little bit further than
he’s willing to go.

(I light my torches and set them free.)

The dark parts flare and
we are alone.
Forget breathing,
now we pant.

(I burn things before they burn me-)

The heavy parts leak and
we are alone.
Forget tasting,
Now we take.

(I burn things before they burn me.)
May 2023 · 43
what will hurt
Kiernan Norman May 2023
I went to war with trouble,
daydreams dropping gentle.
I’ve stabbed too many
precious provisions
to wave my flag now.

Every stoop in the Village exhales
in moon-words beaming electric.
I crave a language
as mean and antsy
as your fast, feral fever.

Tinsel secrets slip to the street
from high-rises and fire escapes,
we only stop kissing to check if
the skyline will confess.

My mouth tunnels
to epiphany,
your hands' twist
toward apocalypse.
Together we can core clouds.

Force a laugh,
lead the light like a vow,
paint the night like a song,
teach me to undo
the deep parts
before they undo me.

My hand on your chest- relishing,
your hand on my ***- savoring.
Everything between us pulses
something torrential.

Everything inside me buzzes
wreck, wreck, wreck,
wreck, wreck.

Spin our night with fingers crossed
across charming evening plagues,
past spines I stitched like statues,
to bridges where we stole steel,
then drowned
our senses in the river.

Not touching you
is where it hurts.
May 2023 · 41
all tomorrow's bodies
Kiernan Norman May 2023
What happened while
the manuscripts choked?
Lighter shoulders,
stranger testaments.

Pardons reflect an ark
where shine means shout,
wind means worship,
and we stopped placing wonder
on anyone's elegy.

I used to be so young and severe,
trembling under any movement.
I played a ghost
until I became one.

I'd be crimped into vails,
rushed through verses,
roused from rest;
and hunting for your hand.

Echoes of ether-
loose-limbed and hearkening,
barely blinking;
saluting fences,
planting poems,
heeding baby-teeth.

Interred with you in
this chaos,
this grass-
fermenting fate
We tried to rise,
but failed to become the sky.

Since you cannot
take testimony seriously,
I had to rip it out-
our two wills colliding,
our pine coffins dissolving.

I was buried with jewels in
my open palms;
still offering,
still not atoned.

Your hands were buried empty
with nothing to answer for,
still tense,
still clenched in fists.

We harbor things-alive from our dead parts;
mice warm in your nest of ribs,
beetles declare squatters rights
in the tent of my pelvis and
raise flags from hip-bone heights.

Worms slink along fingers
and unite our pieces in peace.
In life we follied;
underfoot we fuel.
Tenable terrain,
we transform tomorrow tender.

The manuscripts soften to us,
the archives are kind.
We let ourselves sink into the rattle
and double into strange dust
so that new things
blooming from us.
May 2023 · 37
Kiernan Norman May 2023
I think about purity;
the way I allow things in and out of my mouth in different rhythms-
sometimes gnawing, sometimes cramming,
sometimes clawing back up with bile and belief
until I feel empty enough to try again.

I can’t put any of it into words.
I can’t write short poems.
I over-explain. I overwhelm.
I over-draw and they oversee.
I start to stake but there’ll
always be things I can’t do-
or, I mean, things I won’t do.
That’s a lie.
I try, try, try
to feel alive.

I like the secret,
tipping towards transgression,
tidal, treading.
Nothing in me belongs anyway;
every piece is trespassing-
breaking and entering,
bouncing on chicken wire,
listening for sirens.

Nothing in me is solid enough.
I’m so many stanzas in and out-
each with its own wavering threshold,
each dependent on someones waffling regard.

Water around here isn’t clear,
puddles and streams pulse with
mud and leaves,
trash and scuttley insects.
My reflection exists only,
behind a layer of milky film
and unclean things.
Things from nature.
Things alive.
Things also pure.

Purity like looting
when the wires are down,
like a cracked mirror,
a stagnant pond,
perfunctory ***,
and slow-seeping Lyme
thinning your legs and hollowing your eyes.

Trying a new rhythm; things still in,
still out,
but better aimed.
Still trying, still living,
still too many words,
and still not empty.
Never empty.
Never impure.
Aug 2022 · 119
east river darling
Kiernan Norman Aug 2022
My color is whatever makes you ravenous-
I always wear my color.
Snatching some wind along the FDR,
folding it in my jacket for later.

I’m checking my cardinal marks,
hair down, skin salty,
I’m always navigating blooming
creatures like you
away from devoted danger.
I do my work,
then slip away on a buoy tender.
You won’t follow me,
you’re not that tender.

I’m not the first ingénue to show you
that the cross you carry is short,
or how your shadows are companions-
But I am the first swift sprite;
dripping with kindness and just enough allure,
to make you feel fresh ardor,
a new kind of ecstasy.

I say my lines, hit my cues,
and watch your eyes narrow as the ache
sets in. I revel and romp.
You covet and crave.
We dip and I spin you through a fast moment fever.
Now you’re feral on a stalling subway.

I’m not planting language,
I won’t hold your hand,
I’m humming a slow, electric kindle and you’re starting to spark.

I’m glinting, you're drowning like you understand.
I’m glinting, you’re yearning like a boy.
I’m glinting, you're conceiving our future,
because there’s no way you can let this feeling go.

It’s true I want to please,
but your fancy was a little off-
I won’t be looking up to gage your reaction,
I won't be looking at you at all.
Picture me closing my eyes,
grabbing my jacket, driving the tender.
By the time you’re on fire
I’m halfway down the river,
and I’m still glinting.
Aug 2022 · 693
in the philippines
Kiernan Norman Aug 2022
In the jungle,
on the islands.
In my bedroom,
on my dumb *.

I get a text.
I need a tattoo.

A real tattoo;
a Lola's wrinkled hands slapping my thigh,
laying me over banana leaf,
then hammering long needles in my chest-
maneuvering a horn, a bone, a citrus thorn,
tap, tap, tap, tap,
sketching wounds to fill with soot.

A muted barb,
a slight prickling of skin,
then sinking, stamping, slipping-
through blood,
through muscle,
through bone.
Staining, stripping, splitting-
scraping at my inside-sun.

That’s what my grace has been feeling like.
That’s what my shame has been reeling like.

I deleted the poems.
I deleted the messages,
I tried to delete the flutter.
I want to cry but nothing comes out
my tongue is so big,
I have too many teeth.

My lungs feels the way mercury looks
pouring into a petri-dish.
Kind of trippy. I didn't even trip.
My surface is all salt and peppery,
numb, infinite,
and so, so stringy.

A man told me secrets and I didn’t flinch.
Then he got mad,
Maybe because I didn’t flinch.
Maybe because he can’t not wreck things.
I didn't flinch, so he threw *
at the wall;
a bowl of puttanesca, cute frosted cakes,
oily tabouli, slippery tteokkbokki.

We watch it drip, drip down,
until scraps and broken plates tye-dye the baseboard.
I didn’t move to clean it up,
he didn’t move to explain.
We didn’t groove to call it art.
This is, of course, a metaphor;
we don't share a wall,
I haven’t made tabouli in years.

okay. okay. okay. okay.
It’s almost funny but not there yet.
Should we laugh about this or catalog it in our dark days?
but to catalog, you'd have to stay.

You said you weren’t scared.
I said I was glad.
I said you’re big and I’m small and we might fit perfectly.
You agreed. That was before you got mad.

Something inside you is reigning rabid-
We knew this.
I am rascally and rare.
We knew this too.
My feelings are so, so big.
Can you see them in shop-windows while you walk your city?
Can you hear them while you shower, or
smell them in your coffee grounds?

That feeling again-
That Old-World ink.
That heavy-heart sink.
The static slander of my skin,
the catty condensation of my brain.
Everything inside is lava lamp-holographic,
and everything outside is pin pin pin pin.
Lola, please keep hammering.
I still feel tacky but your needles
gather up the strings.

It's not decorative:
I'm hoping it's erosive.
I'll bow down deep;
elbows up, eyes down;
an apology for not flinching
when you thought I should have.
Eros bowed out, you're not staying.
I'll bow again- it's twice for the dead.

On this island,
it's just me, that Lola,
her long needles, and my big feelings.
She can hammer them back into me
And I won't flinch.
Jul 2022 · 74
magnets 7.26.22
Kiernan Norman Jul 2022
begin as a small soul-
stretch the ugly-
mind the dew.

Fill each borough with hands praying across beads,
******* in cheeks.
Here you can use the sky
to help you swallow.

Here you wonder historic in an orange wind tunneling
fierce, fluid, fast;
far and full,
Desperate to exhale
and spit down a subway grate.
No one’s looking for utopia anymore:
no rings
no wings.

Walk through haunted architecture for old times' sake.
What does ‘gilded age’ even mean?
On this block, our pipe’s clatter, burn up, and belly,
and the electricity smells.
We wear our shoes even as we sleep.

My body is a tenement,
families cram and people toil
in each room, room, room.
Layers of walls can be peeled off like skin,
we touch our lips and get dizzy.

I’m low light and no fire escapes, you’re growlers
of ale and some sort of horn in the saloon.
Together we are dangerous,
a public health emergency,
an evening that feels like home.

Laughter like glue dripping and drying;
exploring the oakwoods and getting itchy.
A moment, an arm, a radio.
A pinging kind of dire,
a different kind of parade.

His big issue is not company or crowds;
It’s nice girls like me seeing the same heart
but refusing to trip. I walk to bridges,
he stays sown on stoops.

We grip the same maps
but we seek a separate landscape.
I have bad thoughts and become the opposite,
we meet good omens and tuck them in the furnace.
I hear you aching like a slice of too-ripe fruit.
I remember not to look.
Kiernan Norman Jun 2022
So what if-
What if we dive in?
What if it worked?

What if you let it fall-
What if I caught it and gave it back to you
without making a big deal of it?
I’m gathering dust- I stopped moving forward in the last few years,
but I have a weird feeling that I can try-
Like at least right now, while the city basks and blows around us,
I can walk again.

I’m talking about boats while getting a sunburn,
I’m growing blisters I’ll lance with a pin tomorrow,
but for now, I'm focusing more on exploring your hand.
I’m choking down Tabasco and talking fast,
you’re talking slow and listening.
I’m leaning back and laughing.

I’m the one who kissed you,
you’re the one pretending to be surprised.
I’m the one bringing up the hours we spent on the floor
all those years ago,
when you were young and I was mad,
and now, after half a decade of radio-silence-
I’m the one letting you **** me on a different floor,
across a brand new carpet that hasn’t settled flat, hasn’t softened at all.
I’m proud to have let myself soften.

I’m thinking about the way you don’t taste clean but I don’t really care.
I’m not as active as I’ve taught myself to be,
but for now, it seems like you don’t mind.
Keep not minding. Please.
For now, I’m okay with watching our bodies’ arc, thinking
‘goodness, this is just so funny’ and a little bit ‘will this make you like me less?’

Eight years ago I wrote a poem about you and people started to notice.
They told me how it netted in their own hurt and how it held them in a tightness they needed,
and that meant something to me. I never liked reading it-
there are too many flowers. It’s a green and pink feeling,
but now I know that I’m red and you’re blue.
I don’t think you saw it, or knew that it was about you;
I kind of hope not, It was dramatic, but so was I.
So am I.
I am still so soft.

While that poem was brewing, I was reeling,
I was everywhere and I was dripping.
I got a bottle of whiskey and gave it to you in a parking lot.
You didn’t kiss me then, and I let that hurt me for a while,
which wasn’t fair to you; you weren’t even old enough to buy whiskey.
But now you are. And now I’m not everywhere.
I’m only here. I’m still dripping.
What if it's less like leaking and more like watering?
What if it helps us grow?
I want you to be soft with me, I want the flowers
to start to make sense because if we try, maybe we can bloom.
kind of a follow up to my older poem 'i don't write love poems'
Apr 2021 · 242
electric dose
Kiernan Norman Apr 2021
I started puking birds-
I watched them fly south for the winter,
toward warmer pavement and fuller trees.

I started stuttering butterflies-
I watched them take giant sips from birdbaths,
We both know my mouth is so, so dry.

The thing about wings
the thing about things
the thing about trying to focus
and listen and nod while
My mouth is sticky and
my brain feels clogged, like a real
mess worth of paper towels
bunched and flushed in a panic
all the way down my throat

The electricity in this room is so loud
You keep talking, I look for outlets
You get annoyed, I turn off the lamp
You say stand still, I say I’m still listening
You say this is what I mean
I say I’m listening
I repeat what you said before you got annoyed
You say that’s not the point
I switch off the surge protector
I say it’s still there
you say that’s not the point
I say I hate this sound
You say it doesn’t bother me
You say if it ever does I put on the lofi-hip-hop-headphone-girl channel
You say think about it
I think about birds in trees instead
and if power lines are so so loud
or if it’s okay because they can drink from birdbaths
and fly south when they want to,
not just in winter. not just when the pavement is warm.

I say sometimes listening to you is like
watching a show with subtitles;
sometimes you are the audio and the electricity
is the subtitles, sometimes the
electricity is the audio and you are the subtitles,
and other times you are the electricity as well as
the subtitles and maybe there’s no audio at all,
and maybe the video is a few frames behind the audio
and maybe the subtitles are projected in reverse
like when you take a picture of a mirror
and maybe another electric note harmonizes with the first
and also maybe you’re having a stroke or at least
you’re really thirsty and you can’t unclench your knuckles.

You say now what, I say nothing
I’m on my knees, crawling the carpet,
feeling for outlets, scratching my rug burn,
unplugging sockets.

You say nothing for a moment
I listen for any quiet electricity still playing
you sit down next to me, I lift my legs up and over yours
I look at you, you look at my knees
you say I’m not annoyed, I say that’s not the point
you say listen
you say have you thought about microdosing
I should hear a punchline cymbal

I hear nothing, I don’t feel warm
I start to laugh then stop
I start to stutter then stop
I puke.
Nov 2020 · 130
consider dissolving
Kiernan Norman Nov 2020
I’m considering breaking;
something big and essential and shared,
like a four-way traffic light, or a water tower,
or smashing every lightbulb I’ve ever used,
and letting the glass shards spread across
The grocery store aisles,
And I’ll shop for spinach, and caramel, and greek yogurt barefoot,
To show everyone how tough I am.

I’m considering disappearing into the November winds,
I’m untying my apron as a walk across the yard.
I’m already forgetting what the dishes look like
and when the utilities are due-
I’m already exaggerating what I’ve got, and
intonating superstitions toward where I’m going.

A gaggle of humans fleeing the tolerable
should push, should glow and guess,
should smile while they walk away,
shaking off their receipts and sunken science, gratefully.

Ahh, it feels good to decompose -
so good,
so, so good.
Have you tried it? Really tried it?
Anything anxious, or stiff, or sad
sprouting inside of you is severed-
pried out of the baseboards with the hammer’s claw,
and flushed down the toilet leaving a rusty stain on the porcelain.

But then,
you become radiant.

You become a mystery; searing and traveling,
wrapped loosely in oils and gauze.
You become an emblem;
the blackest sun, the proudest eyelids, vaguest plans.
You become a fable,
picking scabs off your fingers, roaming sweaty markets,
utterly dissolved.
first poem in YEARS
Jul 2020 · 110
Kiernan Norman Jul 2020
Punctuation becomes a commandment
to memorize,
to moralize,
to misuse.

A comma means a breath,
it means looking up at the sky and feeling very small,
no comma means you run through the cornfield like you’re being chased like your fingers are full of cramps like you forgot your shoes like the tornado siren is wailing and your not welcome anywhere with a door
Oct 2016 · 824
Kiernan Norman Oct 2016
I crack soldiers inside crocodile batteries. I roll my shoulders. Everything squeaks.

I never meant to drop your hand like that. I'm a lot. it's time to claim the mute emergencies I've tucked into your days When you weren't looking. I'm the strain on your hip, I'm the hair in your sink. I'm always simmering, always smoky, always a little slow to  blink and I'm not enough salt.
I think God stuttered my name the first time he said it- I can never remember how the vowels go. If you think my tongue is too big in your mouth you should try it in mine.

have you ever written a letter and sent it to heaven? I used to do that every time it rained. crayon on paper, paper on asphalt, then you left it alone and it disappeared.

on the school bus in 2nd grade a girl was slouched down in her seat, crying. the driver stopped the bus and went to her. he was stiff denim, leather skin, cigarette fingers. 'what's wrong?' she didn't feel good. 'I don't know what to do about that.' the helplessness in his face made my ears ring. I never feel good. that's when I started thinking my bus driver was God. I kind of haven't stopped.
Kiernan Norman Mar 2016
Shut off the sky if I ask you to-
grab my world so brassy boring
between its battles and its courage.
I’ll arrive with cold hands and you
can bring the ghosts.

I smell dirt in the day and undo
things as I roam.
I don’t listen when logic roars,
but let it loosen in the sun
and sing my prayers through its marrow
like I’m blowing glass,
like I’m hatching galaxies.
June can wait a bit,
verses still spin sad
where you used
your knees on the good nights.

I tried the dancing.
I tried bleaching the blackened veins
and rusting ribs that held me together
with a smile brighter and stiffer than ever before.
It took a mirror and a shiner to remind me that was pointless.

Before was fumes.
Before was whiplash.
Before was my chattering teeth learning to limber over the back fence then dive into the novels
of your hands.

Before knew my night skin was something to flee and
that all betrayal
starts with moonlight,
isn’t that right?
Before knew that travelers
and wanderers
were taught to survey treetops and look to their shins,
but now I just jump.

You said you’d return with a body that wasn’t mine.
It’s okay if you lied.
I’ve tried to swallow the world between sheets
with a thawing mouth and sinking hips.
I’ve tried to whittle the scenery down to bad habits
and foxes tucked into the hills,
Illuminated just when you thought they were gone.
I’ve found a geography where our jokes are meaningless,
where our hearts are no longer the same,
and it is too gorgeous for words.
Thank you for allowing it.
Thank you for avoiding it.
Feb 2016 · 543
Another Mess
Kiernan Norman Feb 2016
Shut off the sky if I ask you to.
Grab my world so brassy boring between
battles and courage.
I provide the cold hands and you provide the ghosts
We know constellations listen from melting harnessed skies
then share stories of their bigness.
June can wait a bit.
My verse spinning sad where you used your knees on the good nights.

Born alive, born with the thinnest layer of skin
Finding comedy in the ripped pages
Cutting phonetics apart
Witling words, truncate.

Shakespeare was an afterthought.
I’m bowing in the middle of the scene, I’m shaking off applause.
Punctuation becomes a commandment
I reverse and misuse.
Commas mean breath and in their place- used in succession,
mean run through corn fields like you’re being chased, like your fingers are full of cramps.

Injecting poetry like insulin.
Hoping it will seep into your bones
and strengthen the foundation
like the milk with you ice cubes you
had to drink with dinner.

Envy the women on nick at night who want new dresses and new babies and don’t scrape their insides out in front of readers and audiences because they’re bored and maybe not sure if they’re real.
again, not a real thing
Feb 2016 · 589
Kiernan Norman Feb 2016
The museums all end eventually.
If coral lipstick claimed
the way regret seems to-
I'd never stop talking.

I've been forgetting little
pieces of each full moon
across the weeds
of the world.
I don't think anyone minds.

I dreamed your soul attached
to dumb little details
while my body stretched
out against the absence and
I wasn’t that sad anymore.

I don't  swallow feelings;
I feast on poems.
I play with fires howling
In my ribs and
extinguish names
like we rehearshed.

My days are cheap but I’m burning soft again-
like nothing stole my miracles,
like I didn’t lose eleven months with you
tangling my tongue.

it's something else now,
something less like summer brave
and  more like feathers
stitched together
just pretending to glow.
Oct 2015 · 763
(Gutsy Poem part 1)
Kiernan Norman Oct 2015
A blinding fall
reflected off lakes in greens and browns
almost a year removed
from wide-eyed walks across
the Borden Avenue Bridge,
counting steps and calculating
just how many sweaters
you’d have to layer for it to seem accidental.

November was dragging
and you weren't trying to impress.
You drove to school
and didn't go to class.
You thought I’m flexing,
you thought I’m finding my feet,
you thought thinking was overrated.

You smoked cloves on benches,
let bracelets rot off your wrists,  followed every ‘person
you may know’
on Twitter.

Holed up in libraries across the Shoreline, you read Vice,
posed for pictures with strangers
and made friends with Cat Marnell but she never texted back.
You played with words in a way that started to smell nice.

December was still lucent,
your curvy cheeks and sloping
thighs receded into something new-giggling and compact.
When you skipped finals
and failed every class,
you shrugged, deleted the emails
and got really into makeup.

Winter was a dizzy dazzle of
new pills and old clothes and
a pallor that crept just on the line of
***, glitter and death.
not done/ relevant I just don't want to lose it.
Oct 2015 · 670
Without a Title
Kiernan Norman Oct 2015
June took root in the same way you learned to scream
but now it's fall and you're trying
to sing.

It slipped away from muddy lids like lifting a veil,
like stepping into a bath,
(toes, sole, calf. toes, sole, calf.)
and crawled unseen behind apartment-light echoes;
crooning sultry half-truths,
weighing down vascular walls.

My heartstrings aren't laundry lines but the conversations
we never finished (last night, last week, last year)
hang from them; pinned to sheets, unbothered.

It's pulling on my sleeves;  heavy and damp.
The wind isn't howling but
I don't want to hear about the dream you had
where I was a Priest,
where I was hitchhiking,
where I cut off my hair in a taxi's front seat,
and gave it to you in ziplock bags.

A hazy sky; slow and sweet,
coats my traipsing moods like honey
and sticks to the bottom of your favorite mug
(yes, that one, with the chipped rim and your rival
high school's logo.)

We're still here, springing forward and listening.
It's growing, humming cold verses in a new language
while we watch his name take shape in the mist accidentally.
You don't mention how fiercely I'm blushing and I'm grateful I don't have to laugh it off. Some days laughing feels worse than puking.

We are still here.
We are still.
We are.

I'm looking for something important and I won't know it until I see it.
It's morning, it's warmer and we lift our chins to coastline.
I blow smoke upwind;
today physics is purely speculation.
Today I feel like secrets are extinct and I'm certain the day is so much clearer through my Atlantic eyes than their protesting embrace.

You can keep June, I'll take the sky.
Sep 2015 · 521
Sole Daughter
Kiernan Norman Sep 2015
I need more souls around.
the knife I chewed up sharp
sways and dangles a glaring charm,
(and a charming glare)
double knotted on a piece of rope and
tucked under my shirt.
It bruises my breastbone when I jump.
I’m always jumping.

I don’t cut paradise into pieces anymore.
I take it all in with one quick bite.
I’m hardly chewing;
I never learned to savor
and it hasn’t rotted me out yet.

Late last week I had an idea.
I told the room:
(thirty eyes squinting,
a dozen minds listening,)
‘Let's get together and refuse
to acquire a taste for civility.’
So what do you think?
I was only speaking to you.

I've been playing a private game
all summer and I keep scoring.
I wear long skirts and eyeliner
and keep my mouth shut.
I trapeze across centuries and well traveled
roads with my long hair
and track the pontential and power
assigned to my quiet smile
and gentle pout.

The world can be mine with a
flick of my wrist, a lick of my lips-
But I don't want it:
i'm here to expel, not to endure,
the point is to leave as light
as possible.
I won’t win until I have nothing left to carry.

Tonight I'll just seer sailors;
soldiers call to me
like I’m their sole daughter, their soul daughter,
dripping green jewels and deep, brown
curls onto tan toes and
dancing in the road-
(eyes decidedly closed,
rush hour.)

I gulp in smoke from their pipes
while spinning circles in the dirt.
My voice trails over tree branches,
my lungs smolder and ashe.
I smile sweetly-slow.

When I do meet their gaze-
(measuredly striking; a tender,
lingered look which veers me from gypsy to divinity,)
they tense.
They call out
You are my Odyssey.
You are my Wild Waves.
you are my Purple Heart.

Skipping stones over oceans and puddles,
I keep nodding and careening.
I keep coursing and coiling,
keep slurring my words,
refusing my name
and pocketing your promises.
I gave up on air-drying my skirt,
(You are not what I’m thinking of.)

I’m only a little bit of what’s left--
everything we tried to know,
everything we only read once-
everything we left in footnotes of
essays, under passenger seats
and tangled in the bed sheets
of that swollen-heart name
no longer spoken.
I'm only the woven wires
and reins braiding bold
acrylic cities across knuckles
and palms, flashlight
illuminated and glowing.
It's new skin shimmering in the
daylight, pearling over
and throbbing awake
in places only I can see.
trying different style
Sep 2015 · 432
Kiernan Norman Sep 2015
Standing like a steeple in his shower,
just as revered and rickety,
mouth open,
pooling warm tap further than you'd think.

I spit cities, shining terror.
I swallow rust, I gulp fluoride.

I'm not nocturnal,
I’ve never liked wine.
(We’re still right here
still in a foggy half-love and still shouting
over where it went.)

Your performance on the bench,
baiting me but not reeling me in.
There were no nights swept dancing like water lilies over the quiet morning creek,
spinning slimy pirouettes on algae glazed boulders
animated over arguments
or kissing in truck beds until Mexican blankets
stopped feeling scratchy.

I'm just a distraction
a pretty one
to touch and slip toward
but nothing worth bragging about.
Nothing worth exaggerating or keeping
folded like a wallet in your back pocket
Levis for for beer nights in dive bars to come.
Sep 2015 · 372
Kiernan Norman Sep 2015
a backlit ode to rooftops
in skeleton suburbs
(like nostalgic,
like naked,
like full of stars and sinking-)

His flannel soul is gripping bruises,
is running madly toward dawns' finished dreams;
endless and grotesque in matching cardigans.

a sloppy ode to lips shaping words
and absurd emotional oversights,
to any uttering reflection that grinds too close to incoherent urgency,
(or to potential delight,)
pressed dizzy into a girl who looks like me;
all soapy panic and sometimes light.
visually brutal,
belovedly torched.

An ode to night like nonsense picks at our shins
reminding us how we don’t add up.
that being here now is already fading,
hardly sacrificed, a small canopied disaster
quietly running out of time.
Apr 2015 · 748
Forms of Unravel
Kiernan Norman Apr 2015
I don’t want to write poems about breaking anymore.
I’m so sick of my words weaving knots into the fiber
of a noose and polishing the clip of
the anchor it’s tied to
in a dull sleep,
a heavy, hibernation light-years deep
in a cold, black lake,
tangled in seaweed.

Reeling it in,
(sweating, grunting, bellowing)
it doesn’t budge.
I’m figuring out how to
stand my ground too.
I’m done putting my books down
for people who don’t need me,
(people who like me but not enough.)
I’m done with rope burn.

I’ve been wearing my stringy hurt
as a badge all winter and it grosses me out.
I keep mistaking eyes for hands,
smiles and laughs for a net to land in;
this free-fall for an optical illusion.

Awake, my mind is vigilant.
It’s quick and fierce to bat away
any thought that might land,
wheels down onto bits of you,
but I can’t guard my sleeping brain.

In dreams my mind circles back to
quiet-night, November coasting.
Back to my fingers carving out shapes
in the steam fog of your windshield,
back to each dizzy morning where
I searched my phone for a ‘Good Morning’ text
that I never found-
(you never sent one, I never asked.
We were both without precedent.)

How do I exist if not in varying forms of unravel?
What’s the point of collecting the words pumping through
and out of me if not to cover, shield,
and serve as armor when I have no skin?
There’s so much more than you and your fingerprints
or me and my kaleidoscope mind.
Sometimes the best part is no part at all:

I want to write a poem about the silence:
the thick, metal tangle of wires that coil in my head-
they swear they’re waterproof but I’m still terrified to sweat.

I want to write a poem about the before:
before the envelopes were opened,
before the kisses felt cautionary,
before I threw myself in the kiln-
when I was shaped but not permanent,
when I could still make corrections.

Summer has been rolling in and
getting closer to my tanning shoulders
with each sunset and each curtain call.
By the time its here for good
I’ll be writing poems you can’t find yourself in at all.
I’ll be writing poems that
don’t begin broken.
They’ll be poems that are whole
from the very first line and stream words
growing stronger
instead of
growing apart.
Kiernan Norman Apr 2015
I’ve never stopped a heart-
The poem should end here.
It doesn’t.

The sound of the levees breaking was quiet,
I thought it would be bigger-
The poem should end here.
It doesn’t.

I was expecting shrieking sirens, stirring dogs,
and motion sensor porch lights chasing rabbits
from driveway to driveway,
I was expecting to shatter mirrors
and lower temperatures
with my very existence-
The poem should be over.
We should all be in our beds by now,
(but we've got six more miles until our exit.)

I've been keeping up;
brushing my hair and
vacuuming the stairs like it matters.

I've walked through this damp, hail-heavy winter
with wet socks, a back-pack,
and a sterling silver pendent of jaded righteousness
swinging from my neck.
I’ve kept my head down and
blinked smoke out of my eyes.

Something inside of me was rusting and rattling
and I wanted everyone to listen carefully
to my clicking bones.

A doctor diagnosed my sacroiliac joints as dysfunctional
and suggested physical therapy.
My mother diagnosed my humor as alienating,
my spirit as disillusioned,
and suggested to lighten the **** up.

I’ve never stopped a heart-
I don’t think I have it in me.
I’ve never stopped a heart,
but I’ve just about figured out
how to end this poem
without the heart stopping me.
Apr 2015 · 491
April 10-15 Daily Poems
Kiernan Norman Apr 2015

Feel close or run
(our echoing is escape
not candlelight magic)

a renegade lulled them so deep
(touching sleek song,
foever in fear)

a blooming kiss, an endless beach
(imagine, suddenly)
the imperfect:
the feathering hope that sways and beats
in nervous possibility
(that illuminates everything that might)


You may resonate summer
strumming, wondering, yearning,
with gentle guilt beating open toward
uncertain, where strayed smoke appears engulfing
only them.

Her sleek, royal mine,
her sleek, raven mile

deny them your secret-
stay a hot, shut vine,
be a rolling wind;
without a dagger to breath through.


Rocking blue light
bared our language
if screaming is showing
then these sweating seas
are rocking and pulsing
with nerves.

Your body is a flooding summer,
cold creek, navy blue kind of Royal.
Your journals are meaningless,
the alphabet has spoiled.
Confessions melt to wax in the heat
and you’re starting to confuse hope with home.


gladly waiting.

A dry, gilded sorrow sings to pierce again.
They hesitate; warm,
as silent-radiant boy lips
(who give us whiplash,
who deny our gaze)
empty, quickly collapse
into a slight withering, glow
and contemplate the fragments of us left.


Imagine a small, gold
moon lost within
the raging, rising winter

calling through the dark
for our touch

together our form trembles
in beat with the too-spun silver chain
swinging between your kiss
or me.

My catching heart
your rolling eyes
a false enemy with a veil
to rouse the rising world.

I wonder how desperate and passionate
spread through my newfound blaze
so hidden by certain eternity.

What I feel-
entirely breathtaking.
Kiernan Norman Apr 2015
After miles of coasting,
trailing a stretch of steel remembered
more as an artery than a scar,

(back when the sun-stained arms
and scratchy palms that laid each track,
across an endless America felt
ageless and exhausted;
gripping great-grandbabies and bibles and whittled pipes,
fingers coiled and knotted with stories, ready to spring forth
and croon out if only they were ever asked.

They didn’t talk much during the inbetween:
that window of time when their bodies were no longer
cracking and howling, rooting rungs into dry grass
from ocean to ocean; fitting the landscape
with a skeleton of its own-
but before the true rest
when they let their bones shake out the tight
grip of untold tales
and sink into the dirt they helped carve.

You think of them now as dust and a rosary planted
under pine, a Sunday grace, a shared plot.
You do, don’t you?
You’re not really looking.
Apr 2015 · 591
Manhattan Fashion
Kiernan Norman Apr 2015
When was the last time I called the city’s bluff?
Can my vocal fry irritate the day-tripping crowds
And commandeer the cherry blossoms?
Can someone’s bitter-power slow solid-district architecture to a daydream,
where buildings sense the age of dust and kneel down in respect
like the postcards in the airport remember-
not our hot, sticky, fast Manhattan miles
which endure so little once the seal has broken and the sunburn has peeled?

Wandering past mystery, across novelty,
always with a book in hand and always through sunglasses;
like they’re expecting the boredom,
like they weren’t just two blocks away laughing and sobbing
in after-hours, foggy jazz highs
where they let their denim hips disintegrate in circles
and drip onto the floor before
crumpling downward from the neck
because no one listens
and because
everyone understands.
trying to get out of my comfort zone. using magnetic poetry to inspire a poem each day.
Mar 2015 · 840
Titled Gradually
Kiernan Norman Mar 2015
I never really notice the color of people's eyes but
I can tell you that the way you hold a pen makes me think
the words twisting inside of you
are streaming and surging and sharp;
a deafening waterfall I can't chase.
They're throwing themselves into the dips of your eyelashes and demanding to be set on fire-
they're screaming to be loaded into a barrel,
cocked and aimed at the crosshairs of your moleskine-
You're hunting wild words for the thrill of the ****.

I don’t remember your license plate
so each passing pick-up,
(cobalt, clean, too high to just step in) sends me reeling.
As winter fades, the memory of rushing heat
that struck bare shoulders and spider-scurried
in deep, mascara-laced blinks from your passengers seat vent
to the base of my spine replays sweetly-lonely,
it echoes tightly-comforting.

I tread sensory smiles because spring can't get here fast enough.
My boots are always drying.
My thoughts are always climbing.
I'm craving a day that has shriveled up
and blown away; giddy on these too-tough
March ghosts and gales-
being tangled in it feels almost safe to me now.
In a certain moonlight rejection resembles refuge.
No border tries to contain me;
I burned my passport.
I'm growing out my hair.

These light-and-sweet iced coffee, round-tummy, solid-thigh days
find me a galaxy away from the springy, sinewy nights of us-
the nights when I didn't slouch
and I had hands worth holding.
My shoulders aren't the smooth golden brown;
(shea-butter-softened, an amber, wrinkled velvet

that demanded your caress, 
that confused my heritage,)

they were when you were driving me places-

They're thicker now;
thick and full and that yellowy,
greenish kind of pale that pulls drum-tight over dewy purple veins.
Veins that weave and sprout in every direction;
that bottle Mediterranean blood across leaky night lectures
and fevered weekends.
An arrangement of flesh that smiles the picture of pretty health
and tired vigor with a vineyard tan;
but limps sickly sallow when dodging the sun.

I'm flipping through notebooks and turning out
coat pockets. I'm looking for any little bit
of my autumn daydream to slip out
and remind me that it was so much better
inside my head. The receipts have faded
and we didn't take enough pictures-
fingers clutch my memory’s b-roll negatives,
the soundtrack a roughly translated laughter
in a knotted, almost-vocabulary.

My hands are full of crumpled words
and the small, neon lighters
that I liked to buy and forget about
at midnight October gas stations.
There are words hiding in other places too-
words I've strung up
like Christmas lights and dubbed poetry,
the frozen solid words you held
which I begged for but could never extract,
and the noble, solid words you offered me
like a fireman's blanket while we both sat upright and facing forward
from opposite ends of the same couch.
The words that detailed, in no uncertain terms,
all the ways in which I was not enough.

I think, if I ever fall again,
I will let the dressed-up details
coarse through my veins first.
The descriptions, the elaborations,
the tacky garnishes-
they can bloom in my memory void of language.
I'll let the tiny bits that do nothing for me
perch on my sternum,
then, sweet as a mockingbird,
call out, sing to and mirror back the lives
and centuries and twisted roots
of migration and exploration within me.
My birth certificate is lying-
I've been biting my nails and humming
across six thousand years.

I'm still learning;
now I know the shade of your eyes,
the make of your car,
the cds in your glovebox;
they're fine details I can shoulder
through the winter and won't imitate
bullets the way words seem to
when it's time to hibernate inside my skull.

Maybe by next spring
I'll shake off the novels my thoughts
are dripping with and writhing on the floorboards in reaction to.
Maybe by next spring
I won't wake to find my finger on the trigger
of a loaded paperback gun,
its howling muzzle aimed toward the sky.
figuring it out.
Kiernan Norman Mar 2015
Let a little lonely thrill
careen from Ikea bolt
to Ikea ***** under the thin,
chipped legs of my folding chair.
Let it bolt across the
tabletop like a daddy long
legs when the kitchen light
flips on and hums into
a deflated, blinding brightness
at 3:26 am on a Wednesday in February.

Let a little lonely thrill
find its way past my loose
muscles and blooming skin-
let it melt down into my dankness
and start to sing so loud
that even my sweat radiates vibrato.

I want it to burrow from
ear canals to pastel brain
and flood my gums
after seeping through cheekbone
pores, hostile and sun-stained.

I need to feel it scream
its loud, grisly engine
to life from the parts of me that
might soon spoil.
I'm not moldy but you're
also not yet desperate. (Your checking
account can handle a few more
diner trips and coffee runs
and it's already Thursday.)
With any luck you can avoid
chewing on me entirely this week.

I am (silently, always silently)
those manic hero spirits
that bounce
and rise across every pothole
of every road that my
tires didn't dodge.
(Whether by lack of skill
or lack of will is up for debate-)
I don't want the trails back.
What's the fun of tracing a failed
treasure hunt backwards?
It hurts more than it heals.
It illuminates exactly where each wrong turn
was made, ignored or aggressively denied.

I'll finish this road trip but
I know this whole playlist by heart.
I'm done with truck stop maps
that I can't fold correctly,
that I can't keep from tearing
along the creases.

I'm done with wine flavored Black
and Milds, wooden tip,
bought in boxes of five
or individually with dimes
and ripped dollar bills
stashed in the glove box,
kept there specifically
for the occasional urge to storm
any aspect of myself with concentrated
poison and my lungs volunteer.

I'm done with getting by on
metallic coffee four Splendas
and my white knuckles,
my raw nerves.

I've made it clear I can maintain this
grit that I've been dragging across
the Tri-State Area since last June,
but I can no longer ignore
the constant windburn
on my shoulders, chest
and forehead.
I need to spend some time with my back
to the express lane on the interstate.

I need a break.
I need to let someone else drive for a while.
I need to sit passenger side with
my hair down, bare feet hanging out
the window and lost in a daydream
that is so very far away.
I need to let the sun pour
wide and easy
into my open mouth,
janky limbs finally loose,
the words at the tip of my tongue
hitchhiking on the caress
of slicing traffic.

I'll keep my sunglasses on deep
into the night-
until each lightning bug has kissed me Hello,
Darling. Good Evening,

and it becomes hard to tell a yellow traffic light
from the moon.

I'll just coast. I'll know the salt in my mouth
is the day's hard work cooing at me;
that the sweat of my neck has been absorbed back
into me; stiffening my clothes and curling my hair,
until I'm back behind the too-tall steering wheel,
avoiding tolls and damp again.

Because lately I've been so tired.
I can't see straight to my neon-exhilarate.
I know a little time with my head lolling
again the seat, the window, you,
and a little sip of the landscape
taken for purely what it is
instead of what it's becoming-
will stretch my gut back where
it belongs instead of double knotted
to the tailpipe, waving along, air-drying.

Give me a few hours and I may
nearly forget the slow
burn of that ever-aching ghost light.
I think I'll close my eyes now-
If I focus  all of my energy toward
a mind and body learning
stillness, I can almost feel
a rhapsody at one thousand sun beams.
It's a new day in America,
it's a new day in my bones.
it's different. based on a few lines I put together a few months ago from a magnetic poetry set.
Kiernan Norman Jan 2015
I picture them in a balmy hallway,
far-corner huddled; quietly, urgently
comparing their notes on ways I have loved.

They'll laugh at lame jokes and avoid eye contact,
each surprised by their own awkwardness.
One of them will quip the term
'eskimo brother'
and immediately wish he hadn't.
The rest will kindly ignore it.
The moment will pass.

They will slowly shed their discomfort.
They will remove their coats.
Sweat will bloom at collars
and trace knotty bumps of spine before
pooling into the space between
boxers and belt.

They won't openly discuss the
strange comradery
that accompanies the lazy river evenings spent drifting down the same mind-
but the tension pulling across
each of their jaws
will announce loud and clear
how frustrating it has
been to be cropped,
tucked in, paper fortune teller folded
and wrapped up into someone else’s idea of poetry.

then all at once,
they will get started.
Printed pages will uncoil from backpacks,
phones will emerge from pockets
and fingers slightly shaking
will chase the letters
of my name through search engines.

My sticky poems will fan out across floorboards.
They will lower their bodies carefully, not quite kneeling,
(and without mention of the bad knees they happen to share.)
They'll hover above each piece of evidence
and their eyes will crash along titles and memories-
they'll read with raised
eyebrows and pretend as if
they don't already know
each poem, each quick dig, by heart.

When they start claiming
and denying pieces
they will do so lightly
and without judgment.
'This piece is about you and the dry, delicate
tissue-shell of skin
she held out for you after you told
her to shed.
But this piece- this piece is about me
and the messy ointment
that ruined her clothes and
stained her blankets.
A doctor instructed she
apply the ointment to her hands
twice a day to treat
the burns my silence left
across her arms and throat.'

They will share a bit of rage,
A bit of regret.
A bit of shame, perhaps.
They will either miss me intensely
or not at all.
They will either own up
to the poems they begat
or begin refuting.
They don’t want any of
this chilly weight on their soul.
I understand.

They didn’t sign up for this, I know that.
They didn’t set out to rock me,
nor to dig down deep and get to my China.
I was happy to share, to whisper and recite blurry
morning confessions and epiphanies.
I was right behind them running toward the sand dunes,
waving a shovel and pail.
But I can’t feel bad either.
You all must have known:

If you happen to fall for a girl
who writes you must realize
that every smile you put on her face,
every stray hair you’ve pushed back from her eyes,
and quick habit she starts to crave
is fair game.

If a girl who writes happens to fall for you too--
forget it.
You will find echoes of the way your souls fit and fought
together until she has nothing left to feel on the subject;
(and you must be well aware
she's tidal, her feelings are icecaps,
they are melting but will trickle fresh
and renewed for centuries to come.)
Jan 2015 · 506
Kiernan Norman Jan 2015
Some thoughts quake landscapes;
shattering cities and ripping through mountain trails.
Some sentences crack coastlines;
leaving miles of scarred up sand and no electricity.
Some regrets sting my sternum and leave my mouth dusty;
a silent decade of drought.
Some feelings catch us quick, lapping hot and angry up our throats;
flooding our garages and ruining our bikes.

Some poems
need to be

so small that
they barely
Jan 2015 · 901
2014 Cast Out
Kiernan Norman Jan 2015
I bought mascara and cantered through it-
stopping every so often to straighten up,
to relevé,
to turn exactly 1.8 pirouettes then stumble out
of amateur balance and click my tongue like a yiayia.

I dragged my fermenting body;
all wild eyes and heavy hair,
across four seasons while trying not to sigh too loud.

I dubbed 2014 the year of grit;
the year every day was a new texture of
gritty and I swelled my punches to match.

It was the year I cast my scars
out to sea on lines of poetry
I kept sequestered in my pockets
and reeled them back in published and

2014 gurgled into the year of stage lights,
highlighted scripts and talent lanyards
that stuck with sweat and raw, giddy nerves
from my neck across tripping tries.

It was the year I learned to dread the
third person. The year of one hundred word
bios I wrote over and over,
always baffled and unable to compose a few lines
describing myself.

It was a year of small stabs and big failures,
of getting recognized while buying yogurt.
It was thousands of miles in the Hundai Santa Fe
without ever really leaving.
It was the year of chasing without ever really catching.

2014 was a big collection of small moments that left
me with less certainties than months in the year.
They are simple. They are so very difficult to commit:
1.      Your emotions are valid. Please don’t defend them.
2.      The less you speak the more you say.
3.      Lipstain is never a good idea.
4.      Remember to check your email, dude. But actually.
5.      Your bones aren’t baby teeth. You don’t want them loose.
6.      The conversations you don’t have will haunt you.
7.      The places where you shed your skin then return to will haunt you more.
8.      A kiss is rarely just a kiss. Impossible with the threads of thought
you keep in your brain.
9.      Sweating means you’re trying.
10.  Feeling wanted is intoxicating, but be prepared for a hangover once the wanting stops.

It’s only a little. But it’s so much.
Walk tall with these bullets into 2015.
Be okay knowing you’ll laugh and squeal and feel beautiful and feel dead.
Know there will be moments you feel ethereal and there will be moments you will sit doubled over, pressing your arms into your stomach because it feels like that’s the only way to keep your guts from spilling out onto the floor for all to see.
There is not point but to make a point.
It’s just a year and the goal is the same: stay whole and grow.
2014, new year, january, year, growth,
Kiernan Norman Dec 2014
Your friends here think you have it all:
and on a secret-sometimes
(mornings when the wind is
blowing the perfect amount
of sea-spun and menthol crush-)
you might agree.

You’re smart; if domineering,
and funny; if a bit cruel.
You throw your body against doors,
announcing yourself to whole
buildings with small heaves and breathy hellos;
always dumbly surprised by the hollowed out fiber
of your upper arms but refusing to acknowledge
the irony that in the months since your muscles
quit feasting on themselves
you have only grown weaker.

These friends let you talk.
You talk and talk.
They marvel at the stampede of your
stories; unnerved by the way your voice digs
into the room like a charging foal and
spins dust rising across the tabletop.
With struck lids and no warning
they blink stinging eyes clean
while stacking your bolting, blocky words
straight to the ceiling,
a reverse game of jenga.
You don’t make sense,
Alone you built a tower of babble.

In class you learn to speak like it’s the first time;
you chew on diphthongs and expel plosive consonants.
You pitch crude phrases high across the room
and discover the implications of each single breath.

In trucks and diners you learn to love like it’s the first time;
you kiss with your eyes closed and let fingers wander.
Your hands have a habit of tangling into his and you throw
your head back when you laugh,
(your palms are sweating
but you’re dauntless in this twilight-
go ahead; bare your throat.)
When he suddenly; fiercely,
lifts your body off the ground and into his
you no longer apologize for the weight of it.
You’re pretending to have made peace with gravity.

You’re the girl who seems to exist as an anecdote.
You are bits and pieces of a weird,
rambling journey assembled into a crinkle-*****
Raggedy-anne body who has giggled in a thousand accents
and crushed a million cigarettes butts
into the earth between a handful of
state lines and boot soles.

You’ve become an idea that people like;
a girl who is endlessly creating and curetting,
exploring and groping bits of everything across
years and maps and daydreams.
Her resume impresses-
she has no roots.

And you too like the idea of her-
She walks lightly and smiles.
She marvels and hums,
she is quick downplay
her own electricity.

She’s all short dresses and motorcycle boots.
She tumbles into splits down the hallway,
she’s long hair flowing behind a gush of
dark humor and kind words.
She feels it all and deeply
but the way she lays with hurt
isn’t sticky or scalding,
She simmers quietly. She ***** in her cheeks
and gnaws at her fingernails; grinning.

She is an enigma;
the salty girl, eyes raw, with the pocketful of poems.
She's the girl who takes her dark days and catalogues
them into sepia stanzas. She soaks them in
hindsight and hangs them up to dry
along a string of Christmas-light-twinkling
words and confessions. She watches closely
as they develop into something she can begin
to understand. She waits expectantly
as they bloom into a blurry portrait
of who she might really be.

Because the girl you’re left with when the
people who like you so much have gone home
and your poetry has receded from the homepage
of publications to dusty archives-
this girl isn’t so definite.

You vaguely know her.
You haved walked together. You sometimes nap inside her.
She likes to wear your face.
You’re working up the courage to introduce yourself.
You don’t mind knowing this girl, she’s fine. She’s trying.
and maybe one day you’ll start to let other people know her too.
I mean, we’re all just trying.
Kiernan Norman Dec 2014
It’s nights like these;
when the sky feels raw-quiet
and the moon hangs so low-heavy
and pulpy, parchment yellow,
dripping and left to sun-stain and disintegrate
against dull ghost stories
and stinging to-do lists.
This is when I feel it- the fracturing.
You’re out of sight.
I’m out of mind.  

I crack the window,
blink loose stars out of focus
and send them shotgun galloping
across the flat-hum pulsing,
tin tinged and navy evening static.

The North Star needs new batteries.
He flickers and sways but won’t
extinguish. He is soft and solemn-
a lazing, dazing anchor whose fraying rope
weaves bowline knots
and hitching ties
into each inch of my drying hair.

Every strand of the night breathes itself into life.
The pieces are softening and shifting,
howling and crawling.
They become young men planning,
flexing at high tide and daring
each other further out with each set of waves.
They are posing, pretending to be
what they think the word ‘reckless’ means.

They are throwing their bodies into surf
and wailing.
They are crashing hard
and violent
against the shore.

They are shaking out golden limbs
and rubbing bloodshot eyes.
I watch bruises bloom and gashes erupt a flash
of crimson before salt water clean and stung.

They are flashing gleeful smiles
and throwing taunting screams across
whole seas while diving back,
quickly, elegantly,
into the same rough surf
that just spit them out.

Maybe they’re proactive,
maybe things hurts less when you
know where the hurt will come from.
Maybe the game isn’t to stay lovely
and bright and whole;
but to know pain’s possibilities so intimately
that when it comes time for you to break
you can do so without shattering

Nights like these;
sitting cross-legged with a blank
page open and an aching, reeling,
sickly-warm ribbon sprouting from my molars-
I get it.

Streamers wave proudly across
my body.
They grip and simmer,
they wind tightly around  
organs and bones who
gave up their hiding spots
and surrendered their secrets
the first time I let him come in.

The strings are bright and knot themselves tight.
They tether my windpipe,
weld each rib colorfully between sternum and spine.
They coil down and tie off;
thick, swaddled and bobbing, bowing
themselves regally around my coccyx.

Nights like these I have no armor.
Where is my skin?
I stir and rattle to even the slightest shift of Earth.
Exposed and quaking, I body-map bolts of light.
The light is tap dancing over lungs,
igniting blood and ricocheting through the summer camp,
arts and crafts hysteria fusing my anatomy.
It plunge pastels deep into the marrow of my bones.
The room is smoky, my gut splashes about, electrocuted.
I stop feeling tired.

The thing is- what I’m really trying to say,
is that I have no words right now.
There are no pretty lines caught in the twine of
my hip joints and no fiery prose laying
eggs in my spinal fluid.

There is no poem to write
about the fleshy, sour
smell of my own heart
roasting on a pyre or the hours it will take
to scrub off the charred bits of melting muscle
now staining the carpet.

This bitter heat creeping up my throat
and the sallow contraction of my
belly are not the prologue to a revolution-
my diagnosis is not a metaphor.

They are simply the tangy symptoms of the sadness
pinging around my insides and playing
peekaboo among the weeds of my broken body and sticky mind.
She will wait, biding time, for a properly rapt audience.
I whisper then whine that I’m too messy,
too slouchy, too emotionally ill-equipped to house a heart
maybe breaking,
definitely ripping, across-the-ballroom
slipping and wrecking-ball imploding.
Sadness smacks her lips and smirks.
No one rides for free.  

Nights like these I think
maybe I’ve wasted all my words;
my sentences and precious syntax and swooping rhetoric,
on lighter blows and mere heartaches.
I am a ragdoll limply stretching.
I am standing completely still, taking inventory.
I’m puzzled, though decidedly unthreatened,
by the glass-littered ground, my bleeding feet.
I mean look at the big picture:
I lit myself on fire.
I’m not worried about sunburn.

I know now that it has happened-
the hurt circulates my veins
and pumps me full of vehemence.
The act of breathing is ferocious,
I am a tangle of raw nerves.
This is the night I’m left with a heart shattered
in six hundred pieces on the floor and absolutely no poetry rising
from my pores to help glue it back together.

I said I get it.
I should have practiced.
I should have left my clothes on the sand and
ran toward the sea, naked and unembarrassed,
while diving head first into fierce undertows
and crashing with the boyish bodies of the night.

I should have experimented;
explored all the ways hurt could find me
while the beach was still mine to breathe out and yell for
without fear of being told 'no.'
But I didn’t. I kept my clothes on and my secrets to myself.

Tonight I’m a wreck and this isn’t a test.
I'm so far out, weighed down
by this boxy, heavy pain
ripening in my arms.
I'm panicky and paddling in any direction,
trying to keep my head above water
and praying the shore will appear and welcome me
once I get through this next set of waves,
through this next set of waves.
Nov 2014 · 1.3k
Kiernan Norman Nov 2014
The past few weeks have been mounted in hot pink and mahogany.
Hot breath; sticky and drooling,
dogs up the glass and
I resist the urge to
outline my name in a one-finger, window-fade, Arabic script-
I can’t keep my giddy heat
and roasting hands to myself.

My thoughts pirouette a coconut,
slippery-sweet meld of dazed concentration while I leprechaun-leap over cool evening sidewalks
and tip-toe in stairwells for that
last fevered kiss
as the heavy door
crashes shut and we're still alone.

The hole in my boot sole
grows with each step;
I feel the full magnitude of
each drying leaf as I go forth and pulverize.
I don’t think I can help it-
The leaves fall and the fall
falls and I might be falling.

These days have been oil paint
thick and layered inches high
on expensive canvas, on the
cardboard I've plucked from the
dumpster at work.
The smell of thin trees
and bright fields;
combing out and
rinsing off
and tucking
themselves in for winter naps,
cradle the breeze and
bellow a
proud conquest with its sweet,
smoky hum.

My own long, dark,
hair is lured up and around by grinning wind.
Earth waltzes with the bits of me I've let grow.
Hair is dead, right?
(and the longer the deader.)
In my long, soft, dead parts I am waving free-
finally free and laughing.

I’m laughing because nothing is tangled;
nothing stings yet.
I’m laughing because if--
this ride crashes
I can't imagine how I'll
survive the wreck.

Because I'm caught on the details;
the tiny everythings that get me.
The little choices made
(but so sweet-muted,
they're not printed in the script.)
They are dull-pencil-scribbled in later
by an actor who’s fading fast into
a calmy, balmy, dreamless sleep.

Still, they're the bloom-blushing afterthoughts that catch me
off guard and whip my guts up
warm and oozing.
They stick in my throat horizontally,  clawing and breached.

I acknowledge them softly
and play like this easy
kindness is not
completely foreign to me.
I’m carefully absorbing.
I'm mutely, blinking back
slow-welling eyes
because this feeling of unworthy
coiled deep in my bones
is too rooted, too tangled,
too stutter seep quaking
through my marrow
to just shake off.

But I am trying.
I’m quietly,
hiking a mountain to
meet him halfway-
desperately hoping he won’t *****.

I’m dizzied and melting to the throwaway habits I’m
beginning to crave.
How his fingers pray the rosary
on each bead of
my cracking knuckles.
How he kisses my head when I'm looking at my phone and thinks I don’t notice.
How lately, the sleepy way
I let my posture disintegrate into his body,
(a place that's sun-stained and velvet.
a place that's formed and transformed endlessly across decades and continents)
feels like graceful landing after so much turbulence.

I've met moments of calm locked in limbs and new security in the shapes my fingers find tangling with his.

Even glances can anchor me. A sip of his eyes-
eyes that have shown him so much of the world;
the bright corners and ***** streets,
the graveyards and parades,
the sidewalk saints and stumbling souls,
a world he knows can be beautiful and horrific
and both and neither all at once-
those glances manage to steady the sway
of my tangled body and droop-heavy soul.

and okay, I don't see poetry in
the way I swing myself up;
arm, leg, arm, leg,
into the front seat of his truck while
he closes the door behind me-
(my own faded muscles stopped atrophying
months before I could even remember his name,
but calves and obliques still recall the sensation
of ripping, pinching and splitting
like raw cotton in the presence
of heavy metals and four wheel drive.)

Still, there is something
almost too easy to weave
into words about the
smell of soap on his chest even
late at night and how there-
right there,
is a small island
to double over in laughter
or sigh your stress aloud.
With the tiny details
and subtle quirks I’m
shorthand jotting and jacket-pocket folding
it'd be too easy
to fill a notebook.

And though I'm still treading lightly,
I think if you asked me
to describe the word ‘worth’
right now,
I’d probably tell you about the way
I can pull away, look up and smile during a kiss
and find his eyes already in mine,
smiling back.
Oct 2014 · 550
Kiernan Norman Oct 2014
We're sleeping with sunburns,
chasing the moon-
need some maps to believe in
and for this curse to end soon.

Modern day gypsies;
leaping to fall-
cameras and mirrors
aint no forsight at all.

Galloping pirates,
stealing for the rush-
our sea is cobblestone
our spirits are crushed.
October 21, 2012
Oct 2014 · 840
2011, Tied Off and Dripping
Kiernan Norman Oct 2014
This is how you set a circle with the switchblade someone shoved in your purse at a party; remember how even in your sticky-haired, belly-foaming, hot-breathed drunkenness you knew its potential,
Finally an amulet.
Finally a flashlight.

How you would coo a greeting to it and let a centered, solid voice, (frying a bit at the end of most words, softening them like frayed denim)plunge down cold metal like a rickety ice luge that’s long been disqualified.
How you came to learn the weight of it in your hand,
all the ways to open and close it-
how to threaten,
how to strike.

These were the dewy-dank months of frozen toes shrieking in boots because you never got it together enough to dress in proper socks.
These were the mornings when your alarm blared alive from across the room because you could not be trusted with the snooze button.

Remember how you would wake up terrified, day after day,
with a stinging heart and metallic mouth?
How; dreading even the smallest bit of duty, you’d take a panicky inventory of the day’s looming obligations and graph the ways you might avoid them.

These were the stretches when even a full night’s sleep left you sunken eyed and exhausted-
when the idea of being anything,
even just being,
was too much to take.
These were the days you realized; with little alarm, that you might prefer sinking into death
over lifting up your head and getting dressed.

There were a few weeks that winter when you wondered if the snow would ever stop falling and the calendar was clean. You set your hair into two braids and cut them off with fabric scissors, fully intact.
You tweeted a picture of them with no caption then threw them away.

You were sad and putrefying, slowly collecting candlesticks and diligently keeping track of the moon.
You were color-coding post-its for each lunar phase, plotting; with a thawing-thick body and knotty spine, where your mishandled energy and menacing hyper-focus should be applied next.
These months were so heavy- dragging your feet through them made your skin crawl with static. Your shocks cracked rooms. Your clothes never felt completely dry.

This was the season you halfheartedly turned to nature, searching for a pulse in the barks and rubble of the surrounding land which you might mirror into something almost alive.
The days were bright and white and the nights were swaying and L.L. Bean navy blue and you didn’t smoke but your hair always smelled like Marlboro reds.

When the moon was highest you called out to it, asking for favors.
These were the hours where you could swear you were the only living soul taught to bite down.
These were the hours where you knew for certain what it is like to be dead.
Drinks up to the year you read poems aloud to storms and set fire to handwritten letters with your best friend in the middle of your white collar condominium unit at 1pm.
And smile because at the time it was exactly what had to be done.

Now comb out your tangles and bury the switchblade deep in powdery dirt below your bedroom window.
Do it unceremoniously and fast- it belongs knotted tight in orbit to the year you are now galaxies removed.
Though you may unpack your telescope and salute that tiny hell from time to time- you will never call it home.

That year; however heavy, is the year you must carry with you.
It will be trekking along, a step behind, across every mountain you climb and it will race you to catch dreams in every room to decide to sleep. That year; tinsely-light and braided tightly into veins, sings softly to you from below the defaced skin of your wrist in a language you're just beginning to understand.

Lesson number 1: a web of scars arranged by and for oneself can be a compass. In fact, it may be the ideal tool for orientating oneself to a clear-eyed world where presence is not shameful and the terrifying decision to exist should not require apology.
Lesson number 2: A road map etched over your body, charged electric by the intensity crawling through your marrow and planted by bits of you now reconciling-
This map can guide you well.

And your compass pulses with the life within you. Instead of pointing north, the needle will spin wild and fast until your bloodstream rocks a calm tide up and down the coast of your chest, bathing your lungs and conducting  your breath into a rhythm swaying low.
You’ll think you hear the vague sound of something almost hopeful; something that reminds you,
giggling and bluntly, that there's a mystery of years ahead of you
and to wholly exist in them.
I finally see that whether I’m on a giddy spill south by southwest, housing a heavy sorrow in my kneecaps or walking in rain boots Due North while wiping away tears with my ponytail-
the very fact that I’m still trusted with years to travel through and a world to inhabit will be more than heaven on earth.
published November 2014 Coalesce Lit Magazine
Kiernan Norman Sep 2014
There is a 3% chance I'll find you here. But if in each pair of eyes I dip, I find 1/8 of you; I'll be there soon.

I didn't crawl here; I took a plane. I spent six hours tracing the Atlantic from my window and you rose from the sea, dry and unsalted, twice each nautical mile. I would say it was my imagination, or the California wine, but I wear glasses now and never lie about what I see. It was you. And you and you and you.

Stealing is easier here. Maybe it's the crowds or the way the men smile at me like I'm harmless, but my hands move without question. They don't fumble or miss pockets, my heartbeat doesn't even protest. In prayer beads, silkworm cocoons, oils and sea rings, I am in debt to a city who doesn't know it.

I have no ethnicity. Deep in bone coils the apathy and flight of someone's non-heritage. But I am forgiven; in a world of paranoia, brown eyes are always trusted and the way my hair falls reminds them that I'm on their side. Even my name curls within itself, folded flat and dead before it's over. It's better this way; no allegiance, no responsibility.

From a curb in district nine, I see your star. It's hanging where you said it would be but I can't see god in it the way you promised.

On the other side of the world you told me about patch of green. You waxed flowers of every color, the sky I've only ever painted and the people, beautiful and dark, who will save me. I found it. In broken French and broken sandals I found it and the sun was setting and you had just left. So now we both know you won't be the one to save me.

With one foot in the slanting gutter I walk until the city circles and I'm back where I started. In a daydream I found you. I smiled and quoted your book, the part that said 'When we heard the guidance, we believed in it' and you looked at me in a way that scared me. A way that translated your face into thousands of alphabets, ancient and invented. And I knew none of them. Suddenly I'm illiterate to you. Suddenly I'm gone.

I'm with a man who's made of smoke and each strawberry ring that escapes my lips is dedicated to someone that I’ve laughed with.

With the intensity of archives on fire, I withdraw. You are still a body; a few hundred bones calcified and aging, a mind of words streaming like spider webs, blood you never shed, and  muscles that cross in blinding precision, but you are not who you used to be. You bound to me in a way that's irreversible and now we're both stitching. Awkward and broken we pull at flesh to remove each other. We have scars now, like stickers ripped from wallpaper. The outline of a palm stains my shoulder, a thumb the size of yours in the crook of my elbow. Small, white fingerprints tattoo your neck.

I might be free. Over cobble stones with broken sandals I don't trip until I realize that a city where I loved is now part of me. I can get as far away from her as the modern map allows but the red and gold bangles that crowd my wrists are not to be taken off. They're a part of me too. Like blood spilled on a cobble stone, you will walk over us every day of your life.
written January 2008. I was seventeen. Still my favorite piece of writing.
Kiernan Norman Aug 2014
It’s a sticky summer and I do laundry every other night-
I can’t keep clean.

Wednesday morning, early August, while leaning (not cleaning)
across the gritty counter where I earn a paycheck, I
feel the last deep pull of my lungs before they surrender to rust.
A calm vision catches in the coursing current of my blood
and floats, untethered, through ****** channels of vein.
In the way some women sense pregnancy before their body gives
them any clues, I know I am in decay.

It’s been so easy to confuse the materialization
of hips; stretching and grazing after a long hibernation,
with the steel-toe heaviness of my heart.

Both have me tripping over myself,
shivering and admiring the hem of my skirt
as it dances in time with the circles
I keep turning in; giggling alone
and taking stuttering steps down the cereal aisle
for the third time this week.

Hip and heart are equally quick to bruise
and when a laugh too high, too loud,
too insincere rattles my lips;
a staggered, cold gale stings
both my gnarled pelvis
and the grimy bit of light
that sits behind my sternum.

Every piece of me blushes and
pinky promises it’s neighbor it
will do better. Will be quieter. Will keep
to a light simmer and not erupt boiling and steamy.

The bones cross their heart and hope to die.
The tendons nod with big eyes and try not to blink
as the message travels through my anatomy like a panicky
game of telephone. The head bone’s connected to
the back bone, (we’ve got this) the back bone’s connected to
the hip bone (we just need to focus) the hip bone’s
connected to the thigh bone (we’re done speaking today.)
Dem bones, dem bones gonna rise again.

It’s a sticky summer and studying my hands
has become a national past-time. No matter how much
sweat has pooled in the dip of my clavicles or dampened
the swatch of hair below my ponytail, my palms keep
cold. Fingers shake consistently. Rings fit well, then pinch
too tight then slide off too loose in the lifetime of one afternoon.
I’m wasting a lot of time willing myself to stabilize.

It’s a sticky summer and the hip and heart within me-
the ones I never asked to be responsible for,
are expanding to fill the dunes of ice I hid under all winter,
which have begun to melt. My brain pulses loud and hot,
untamed by my skull and I have to sit down for a minute.

Following the quick, thin stream of my thawing winter with tired eyes
I realize how clean it is. Clear but comfortingly foggy like sea glass. Like the warming dashboard of a below zero drive through the night.
It’s decay but it’s also ripening.

If leaves didn’t crumple and fall to the ground
how would we know when to put our sweaters on?
Eventually the stream will dry up and become something of
an entirely different definition.
And so will I.
Aug 2014 · 517
Sixty-three Misses
Kiernan Norman Aug 2014
I posted a pretty picture to Facebook and received sixty-three likes in twenty-nine hours.

Somewhere else entirely I wander through an overgrown orchard and gather in my basket quick fragments of those who mean well but don’t see it. I let a wide, straw hat meet my eyebrows and obscure my vision because there isn't much I care to see.
While picking sickly-soft, moldy fruit from trees in a bored way, I feel my crinkling, summer-skin quietly open to the thorn bushes I ***** through. Beads of new ruby bloom across shins but I’m not bothered enough to change paths.
While certainly a vagrant, I am not aimless.
I look like I’m thriving; hair longer and smile brighter with each passing month, (I feel intensely transient. My label reads sparkler but I am closer to a moonshine firework. If you hold on too long you're bound to lose partial hearing and at least one finger.)
I am clawing dry dirt, watering small graves with sweat while digging for any roots that I can double knot myself into with hope they'll keep me tethered to this earth.
(a giddy lab who conquered a loose, Sunday-walk grip on the boardwalk and ran, ran, ran just only just realizing I wasn't chased. The leash trailing from my neck feels more like an anchor than a whisper, panting in time to my wonder.)
a form has been published is Issue #3 of Entityy Magazine.
Jul 2014 · 2.4k
you won't visit on Sundays.
Kiernan Norman Jul 2014
I found it while unpacking boxes of old books in the basement.
It slipped out of a Spanish to English
dictionary that I probably smuggled out
of a middle school library ten years ago
and haven't opened since.

I knew what it was, of course-
whole years were spent with bad posture
listening to substitute teachers and CCD carpool-drivers
lecture about the bold beauty and senseless frailty
that was youth.
Their bodies were at once tense and earnest.
Their voices were at once condescending and pleading as
they sang deeply of the space we blindly occupied and
they fiercely missed.

My understanding of youth was a
sepia-streak stumble through tall reeds below an open
sky; taking clumsy steps on sea-cut feet
and one day regretting not passing enough
notes kept folded in pockets or taking
enough pictures of the faces whom I ran beside.

Youth, obviously, is subjective-
It can be teased up or sculpted-in tight
in relation to circumstance.
In my own mind youth is a cool breeze,  glory days thing- like prom night or my first kiss.
Really each took place years ago but, since they didn’t
carry the weight or sheen I was told they should,
I still sit tight and wait for them.

They will find me eventually.
They’ll arrive a loud booming from a furious sky that births open-prairie rainfall that quiets my
teenage sadness as I sit shotgun
in some boy’s pickup and we race
a  cornfield to the Wyoming border.

The fact that I’m in my twenties is irrelevant.
The fact that I live in New England, where corn is imported and gas is expensive, is not worth noting.

So when, in the basement among the books I've hoarded and arranged around me like armor,
I saw my golden-ticket youth slip
out between pages and waft slowly down, I let it  hit the ground.
I could have crushed it with a sneakered sole
like a cigarette or crumbled it into nothing with shaking fingers.
I could have let it careen down between damp paperbacks to
the box’s bottom and know for certain it
would never reemerge.

But, surprisingly, I didn’t want to.
It was light and lovely in a way I would have never guessed.
It wasn’t as sticky as I thought it’d be.
In fact, as I flipped my hair forward and
double-no-triple knotted the bouncy, silky strings
(Strings that felt more like existing than regretting)
at the nape of my neck- a smile so severe I thought I'd crack found it's way to me.

My youth will never be something I flip through
like a catalogue and miss and cry out for. I will never
be haunted by it nor will I conjure it
around a fire while trying to make a point.
I won’t tell ghost stories about my youth
to bored kids because I am not going to let it die.

I saw it today. For the first time I could touch
it and smell it and I realized it didn’t have to be
the sarcophagus of who I was,
but instead could serve as the shifting
and stretching prologue to who I will be.

I’ll let it hang loose and light from my neck.
Its colors will fade in the sun and its beads will
probably warp as it trapezes altitudes and climates.
It will dull and tarnish.
It won’t stay pretty but neither will I.

I’ll gladly sacrifice any lace and filtered polaroid memories
and oft-repeared stories of my youth; kept behind glass and propped up among rags at a museum exhibit,
for the low belly excitement of closing my eyes today and not knowing what I'll see when I open them tomorrow.
I'm sick of being told I'm blowing it.
Kiernan Norman Jul 2014
We didn’t bloom together the way we should have. We never eyed each other across neat soil; both self-conscious and self-righteous as we sipped the sun and, in quiet bursts, raced to touch the sky.  

We weren't planted by gentle hands in soft plots with room to stretch our limbs and shield our eyes, nor to bud in peace and thrive and find identity in both our own bold blossoms and as a pulsing piece of the whole lavish garden.

We didn't bloom because we erupted.
We running-start-swan-dived into stale dirt and were too close from the very beginning.
We didn’t sprout up straight; we snaked and lurked and left no bit of earth untouched by our vibrant, stencil **** fingers declaring ourselves alive.

By harvest we were tangled beyond repair.
By harvest I didn't know me from you and I liked it.

To be so entwined is lovely but depends on a balance
we could only begin to grasp.
To expand but not uproot requires perfect synchronicity maybe not beyond our years but certainly beyond our maturity. We spread out our emotions like tarot cards on a towel in the grass and reflected in your sunglasses I met the silent pieces of me.
In colorful, grim drawings those quiet, ugly bits floated up veins and settled under ribs.
They stayed silent. Until they began to scream.

And you and I- we didn't have the words;
not our own words that we earned and burned while stumbling across months and plains,
tripping over potholes and finding our feet quicker each time.
We had place-holders words we sang back and forth and splashed around and bathed in.
The words we spoke were profound and cardboard.
We were just reading lines, sharing identical scripts and an ache to be seen
so deep and desperate it was sinful.

We maybe shared the humid cling of regret; which hung heavy in stuck-air auditoriums,
it beaded sweat echoed, rolling down spines and turning blood to sticky wax as we whispered in the corner about the things we could say aloud while our minds never left the things we wouldn't dare.

We were mostly ill-equipped.
We joked about hurricanes
We didn't survive the first storm.

I want you to know you really hurt my feelings.
I want you to know you're the first guy I've given my feelings to hurt.
I want you to know I was terrible towards the end.
And I know that. But you gave up on me

You gave up on me at the exact moment I was giving up on myself.
Even as my tongue stung metallic and veins pulsed so hot and loud
through my eardrum that I felt I would explode- it was clean.
It was all remarkably clean.
and sterile.
There were no explosions.
No shattered plates, ****** knuckles or blown out voices
that scratched and rose in time with the sun.

Just a quick slash of rope-
an anchor cut loose and left to sink;
our secrets were set free to
rust over and collect algae.
We were suddenly off the hook
for any vulnerability we might have spilled
on each other in our fits of laughter
and hours of sleep.
A deep sigh of relief.
A deeper sigh of desolation.

The moment exists in sad yellow lighting that must have been added in restrospect.
I tweaked the floor of my memory too:
at that moment I was not wearing flipflops on linoleum- but sinking, slowly and barefoot, into chilly riverbed mud as it turned to ice.

I opened the door and there you stood.
You knew I had been crying and I didn’t try to hide it
it was too exhausting- running on fumes.

And I did expect something from you,
anything from you, that might dull the singed-dagger plunging
stab to my chest with each breath I gulped and spat .
I wanted anything that might reel me in from the cliffs edge
where my thoughts had carried me on horseback.

But you had nothing.
I watched your eyes swallow my swollen lips and pinched, glassy eyes
like a quick, sharp shot of warm whiskey.
Careful to avoid eye contact you slipped ‘**** this,’
under your breath and started to reach for my hand.

You started to, but then after a second suspended
you let your arm fall back to your body.
Head lowered, jaw clenched and you turned and fled with a new heaviness pushing down on your posture.
It looked painful and adult.
It looked like you finally felt the weight of our season.
And watching you go I shrank in lighter and thicker because I felt it too.

We are not going to get a happy ending-
not with each other and not right now.
Maybe not ever.
And that will have to do.
(Though I will miss your hand in mine.
I hope one day you'll remember being tangled with me and it will make you laugh before you cringe because I didn't like to be alone.)

If I wanted to be alone I would just go home.
Kiernan Norman Jul 2014
Twelve years old and I knew I was too much.

A body too much- a stomach that stretched and stuck
and a waist left red, dented, stinging after a day in jeans.

A brain too much- a thought process that took flight
without permission and dropped rogue missiles of ideas
in phone calls with great aunts, deep in essays
during state funded tests and leaked from brown paper bags
in middle school lunchrooms, leaving me silent and sticky and
only just fitting in.

Any conversation was secondary to
the fuzzy way I could feel
my mouth tripping hard to keep up with a dizzy brain
and even before a sentence finished
Feeling regret like warm honey coat my throat and
seep down hot and solid to my roaring gut.

I was a heart too much.
Tears ran forceful and free for
so long. There was the heavy,
lonely feeling that grabbed root at my pelvis
and lounged, languid for days- ******* any hope I could muster
out of tan hide until only leather shell remained.

Dawn would find me ushering in chilling spells of misery
triggered by the whole wide world-
a boy with a gun on the news,
a teacher’s tight forehead while mean kids flexed their puberty,
Or finding a picture of my parents before they were my parents,
and wondering if they ever actually knew love.

At twelve years old my soul was stretched out and sagging.
At twelve years old I held tight to being less
At twelve years old I knew only one way dull the aches sprouting
as fast and fresh as ivy inside my bones.

At twelve every birthday candle and eyelash,
every wishbone and 11:11
was devoted to smallness and simplicity
So certain that the less of me there was
the less I would have to bear from the world.

More than half my life I’ve spent in pursuit of sharp
bones to shield and a lithe tread to conceal.
I have itched to be a sole shrinking girl among
the growing and gaining of peers-
to finally find quiet in a body that
was beginning to ripen in a shrill,
panicky way that would just not do.

More than decade I’ve spent with bile on my breath
and scrappy knuckles desperately begging
the arrangement of meat and bone I live in
to contract; to fold back in on itself and strengthen
into a place where I could catch my breath and
learn to tend.

Now, too many seasons and too many
mistakes later- I do wake up in
a smaller body. Twelve year old me is
beaming as she sneaks glances the XSs
stitched in labels and the chorus of likes that
coo and comment how darling I look in dresses.

Twelve year old me is quietly,
solemnly psyched about the bruises that bloom across
my paling curves after a good stretch on ground.
She even nods her head gleefully
to my swaying pulse as it dances to its own, faraway music.

Twelve year old me could care less about the bone-buried knots
entombed along my spine and the putty-snap cracking
bones I show off like party tricks.
She sees the yolky shimmer of eyeballs and trail of hairs I shed
like bread crumbs marking my path and she doesn’t bat an eyelash.
She’s glad she managed it-
and anyway the price is worth the discomfort,
health in youth is mostly over-rated.

But I do wonder what greedy, vicious
twelve year old me would think if she knew
I am still, secretly, too much.

Could she muster any pride as she feels
my heavy, fatigued heart expand to fill the bits
and dark corner secrets I starved away?
Or any pity as she watches empty-word fog crawl
between ribs and bellow out like a pirate’s flag under raised hipbones.
She meets the murky mass that fills my frame- heavy and suspended
like a dark towering cumulous
waiting for the bow to break and the storm to fall.

Maybe she’d find my brain chemistry unnerving.
Seeing desperate fists pawing at ideas as they are born and implode
and holding numbly to loose bits, reeling them in stunted fervor like kite strings.
Thunder cracks and I’m not nearly electric.

So I grip tight;  sinking decalcified teeth
into the catch of the day, rowing a rusty canoe out of the
whirling, mirrored lake of my mind and back to shore.
I will attempt to fit my
hard won ideas into any and all variables.
I will drive myself crazy with inspiration
but never create a **** thing.

The thoughts coursing through my almost-there body are
flexed horses. They gallop around
the same dirt track for days on end and I have bet
what’s left of my youth on photo-finish losses.
I’ve got nothing to show for who I am these days.
Except for the dresses.
I look good in the dresses.
edited 7/5/14
Jul 2014 · 2.9k
3am, Here, again.
Kiernan Norman Jul 2014
I try to live Here. Here is humid-sticky-underground-dance-hall hot. I’m caught tight in a mess of limbs- bodies stretch and sway from this to Eden. I have never been more lonely. Together we inhale metallic Old Spice. Together we exhale stale tap water hymns. I am breathing all alone.

My tired tongue kicks awake to cheap nail poison as I tap each fingernail against bottom teeth and lightly push three times.
(Four times or eight times. Ten times in one quick, heart-drop minute but who’s counting?
Me. Of course I’m counting. There’s not a beat, rhyme or giggle that hasn’t busy-bee buzzed around my foggy brain. Each thought its own color, each touching down on a different set of crumb-glazed quilts or a different tower of gutted magazines. Each bee is long and thin, pointy in a terrifying way. Each bloated and dripping with a grand idea- which they leave like droppings and are so specifically intense they will never make any sense a breath apart from this moment and this context which crumpled and blew away while I dully, dutifully checked my pulse. I'm alive but my thoughts took off. I can see their exhaust but they fled fast, like they knew I could only begin to gnaw on them. They were born to quickly, maniacally live and die- in and out and there then off and gone.)

Here. Here the walls are chipping off one hundred years, one hundred lives of lead-based paint and are dripping onto the frayed denim of my ****** cut-offs. Impossibly long hair, absurd to call it mine, hangs heavy and wet. The strands shed drops of atmosphere on my (and their and your and-) bare feet. I’m my own sumi brush- my calligraphy is not words, but a footprint-marked path to treasure. Braided bits cling heavy and soaked to the curve of my neck and then billow like sheets hung out in the wind. My sharp, slick scapula must be the laundry line. It’s one of the good bones. Good bones only exist while jutting. The scapula is the beautiful ******* of my skeleton and we finally have made nice.

Here the music is so loud. The bass ignites my dental cavities. They sting and pierce as a reminder of how terribly I’m taking care. Lights blink, the room quakes and I need water.  I’m throbbing and flickering and faces attached to bones slither between each other and grind up into my own perfect focus. They’re smirking.

One at a time they appear with a warm, grainy hand on the small of my cold-sweat back. Each face of bones lean in close, dry and cracked lips that graze my own fever-hot ears. Goose bumps sling up and down limbs and the lips, all smudgy red lipstick and cigarette breath, whisper something to me that is absolutely crucial. It’s something beautiful or something hilarious or something crude but I can’t hear it. I’ll never hear it. They throw their bones back and cackle-laughing so hard it must be painful. All I can hear is my eardrums cracking and breaking, laying the bass for a high pitched dial tone.

One by one they do this and then, with a huge play-dough smile and eyes as deep as I feel, they slowly back away from my flimsy, electric body. I know they’re relieved they didn’t get stung. This goes on for forty straight hours. I feel like the Queen bored and still as they file through to kiss my ring. I feel like I’m at my own wake. I am beginning to erupt. I am lightly vibrating with the burden of militant creativity. I think I'm melting from the inside out. The bones still laugh and the bees, diving like war missiles, are screaming that it’s time to flesh out that novel, string precise words together in a huge, monumental way down golden strings that will change the world for the better and forever hang on God's graceful neck. It's time to record that beloved lullaby and sculpt that masterpiece or put on black clothes, sneak out and vandalize monuments. It is all absolutely crucial and so very urgent. Everything is wailing and I’m nodding slowly because if I do not do it, ALL OF IT, now- right this instant and quickly- I will die having said nothing. I will have wasted my opportunity to matter.

Here. Here the bone-bodies continue to mock me. The room stays dim and damp and I don’t think I’ll ever get clean. After twenty minutes or seventy years the crowd thins out, lights switch on illuminating exit signs and the room slowly, sadly, empties. I am sticky and aching and have never felt dumber. The bone-bodies left their blurry sweat, their empty bottles and their void inspirations like blank fortunes trailing across the bar top. There’s a real, fur, calf-length coat and a fake Birkin bag in the corner. My feet are filthy.

Here. But I’m not really Here. Here is bougy and exclusive. There’s no list but you probably can’t get in because actually Here is utter *******. Here is the moldy bricks and pre-war ceilings inside my head.
Leaving Here is too easy. You blink and you’re gone. Then I try to remember what party I even went to but I’m sitting Indian style and cramped on rough carpet and my back is in knots and everything I’m thinking is slow, melting taffy lose and inconsistent.

The sun starts to rise up pink through broken bedroom blinds and I know that I went way down deep and danced and gripped tight to flurrying ideas and made a big mess and now I’m stuck ripping papier-mâché, three inches thick, off coat-check walls and trying to read the graffiti-ed bathroom stalls but the Sharpie is dripping and I might be illiterate.

The Somethings I came to flirt with are hiding and won’t answer ‘POLO’ no matter how loudly I scream ‘Marco! ******* Marco!’ I’m reeling and under-breath begging ‘and please come find me and let’s make stuff and we can’t waste this and I can’t be a waste.’ But below all the pacing and knuckle-cracking I know that there are no Somethings listening to my panicky prayers. They sneaked out while I was braiding my hair for the sixth time, humming something old and Johnny Cash-y that I remembered and liked and had to Google and perform eight times for a mirror. I sneeze and I want to cry. I don’t think I know how to read. Edges start to blur and the alphabets a mess.

In defeat I’ll wash my face and slide under one light blanket and quickly sweat through it. I’ll lower my heavy, thick-thought and dizzy head onto a stack of three pillows. My vision will fall away from me and stars will explode in a chatty whisper that has be immobile and straining and sore. I will treat them like a sky full of fireworks blazing just for me. I'll ooh and ahh and my heart will palpitate under the weight of them. (Really I do know they're just amphetamine snowflakes falling slowly and burying my wasted night.  I swear next time I won’t waste it.) But at that moment I'll watch the show and feel safe and small and inconsequential, at last.
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