a message from a boy i don’t know
that begins with, “i’m J’s cousin, i’m trying to locate her, can you....”
i don’t know how to deal with those
who promise death,
so i don’t finish reading it,
bile mixed with guilt building in my throat.
last night J told me her body was falling apart.
i didn’t know how to respond.
i know bodies without bones too well
but i don’t know how to talk about them.
i don’t know how to parse away
the skin from the bone of a pig
when i’m standing in the middle of a cold barn,
more naked than i was when i was born.
i am naked with boys who i don’t know,
but who fold me in half anyway, then fold me apart,
then spit me out like i am
the bitter taste of a dead dog.
keeseville, ny is upstate is a place
for stained dresses & burnt milk & spoiled prayers,
where i spent every summer in a body
made for somebody smaller.
i’m realizing now that i’m not small,
everyday i’m the opposite of small,
but these boys still look at me
with frightening scrutiny like i’m a goat who belongs in a bed
& if i’m not pet, not fed, i will give out.
sun hangs across the sky
like blood across my underwear.
yours or mine?
from which part of the body?
a dream about a boy & his bicycle,
which is red, & coated in winter
& in frost. a dream about a boy
with freckles trailing his hands like layers
of bad teeth. a dream about a boy
whose bones match mine,
but i can’t love him.
more than anything mother
likes to sleep. second to that she likes
having a body that is much, much smaller
than mine is. still there are times
when i pretend that our sleeping is the same.
her nightmares creep into her graveled skin
the same way they creep into mine.
she will keep sleeping,
her bones will keep shrinking.
what does she know about boys,
about a boy?
this is the story of the family of deer
that once lined the lawn
of the house down the street
from where mother & i live without anybody but walls
white as the faces of monks.
they lined the lawn for ten minutes, then were shot.
this is the story of a boy & his bicycle,
& bicycle tracks that line the bodies of dead deer.
a boy who doesn’t know how to cry unless
there’s been a fire.
a dream about a boy & his bike
burning like penances, like ancient worlds.
forest fires line my dreams. forest fires
do not make me love people. battered dogs
do not make me love people. there is a boy
& a bike & he has a dog & the dog too
has been bruised by flame.
how to cure: a dry mouth?
how to cure: what has been lived in?
how to cure: a fire?
if only my mother could step out of her bed
now. she would see me shivering with the skin
of somebody who should never look like me.
boys **** me & then tell me
all about the bible classes they’re taking.
boys' breaths usually smell
of how they're thinking about
the girl with short brown hair & bangs
as no more than a girl
with short brown hair & bangs.
i am not angry with them.
this is not me angry.
i am not angry at any boy.
this is me trying to forget about boys
with hands like the teeth of fake gods.
(when the first bird crashes & dies into a fainting sun
a second bird comes to take over the first bird’s place.)
(songs about mountains are the most important)*
i wonder if birds listen to mountains, if they think
about mountains. do you think
in the dead of summer
(death of july)
the two of us climbed a mountain
& you saw a snake
& i vomited.
it was then, after i vomited,
that you started to become
less & less the boy
with a face like sweet fabric,
there was this way
in which we tied ourselves together
dangerously to your bedpost
for an entire year.
you were good for something
but don’t ask me exactly what.
i want to make a friend soon, who also
has trouble with missing
& very much not missing
if you ever want to ride a carousel,
come with me.
we’ll claim two horses as our own,
forget that they ever belonged
to those who touched our bodies unapologetically.
My flesh is freshly skinned, because of my father’s
nails. My father is brushing out the tangles in my
hair. He is used to the brushing, he says, because he
used to have a sister. I don’t think to ask him where
his sister is now, although I picture her with hair
perfectly tangled, like an extended family, like ancestry.
My family tree is knotted and webbed, but every member
has a place, and if you’re lucky, a purpose. My mother’s
purpose is to cook soup for the Passover Seder. I picture
Passover as ****** as when the planets forget to flash
across the sky. This happens. I have seen it the way I’ve
seen a boy look at me from across a wooden table.
The boy feels like my cousin, even though he is not my
cousin. He just happens to have a gaze that calculates,
like the gazes of the old men that sit together in my town,
on the corner of the two streets whose names I can never
remember. When I walk by them I make sure to shuffle my
feet even quicker than I usually do, because I want to forget
about my body. I don’t look in mirrors anymore. I don’t even
look into my favorite lake anymore. The way it wrinkles together
hurts as much as my father’s nails do: my father’s nails against
my scalp and against my skin. My father picking me up out of the bath.
I am still wearing my organs. I don’t think I’m three years old anymore,
but I’m not quite sure. I can never remember what it is like to age.
i. do they exist
ii. do we know that they exist
iii. how do we know that they exist
iv. how do we see (our) bodies (properly)
how to write a manifesto for a body! for the body! bodies sink like the breaths of a baby when a baby is held by a tired mother whose face is gaunt and whose ribs are the sharpest leaves anybody has ever seen.
i want to walk through a body of woods. i want the woods to be full of leaves. i don’t want to have any limbs.
in my head i can taste the trees that are in this body of woods (and this body of woods is full of leaves). the trees stretch out the way your body does atop my bed. i still don’t know if you belong atop my bed. when we walk i’m jealous of your calves, of how puffed out they are. when we walk i want to pick you a cactus. i want to pick my body something. i want to pick it apart. i want to pick it lying in the grass.
i’m sorry but my mouth is too full of candles for it to touch yours;
i’m hoping that doing this will make me quick-witted, the way you are.
i’m sorry too that i’m not quick-witted already.
the way a body is: it’s a road, like this one that i’m on now, visiting you. i’m taking a bus again, like the last time i went to see you. the last time i saw you you had a bruise on your left cheek. i never asked why. you never told me why. whenever i picture you i picture you with the bruise on your left cheek (sometimes though i forget and instead it ends up on your right cheek). when i see you i think i will be disappointed because you will not have the bruise on either one of your cheeks. in an ideal world there would be one long bruise trailing all across your body. maybe this would make you mysterious.
i am trying to picture our bodies together again, trampled by our flesh in the rain. where you live there is so much rain.
[WE HAVE NICE BONES / YOU HAVE NICE BONES / I HAVE UGLY BONES BUT WITH YOU THEY FEEL NICER / OR AT LEAST LESS UGLY / DO GHOSTS HAVE BONES?]
we don't love our bodies properly.
mostly we just listen to the sky
as it changes colors
over the river
outside of my bedroom window.
i don't like thinking about the way
my body looks like next
to yours. there is so much flesh on mine
that i'm not sure who it belongs to,
or where it is supposed to go.
the sun mixes with your face
to reveal just enough
of your tongue
and your teeth.
there are some nights when i picture
a wolf in my bed,
is not one of those nights.
you are making me the wolf.
in the morning
you cut yourself
trying to open up a bottle of wine.
there is blood.
we see it, for a second,
but cannot picture it ever coming
from either one of our bodies.