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Maddie Fay May 2020
maybe it's the way i was raised
or maybe it's my cancer rising
but i only ever feed myself well when i am feeding someone else.
i mean,
my love language is soup.
which is why my whole house smells like curry, garlic, and ginger,
why over the course of a couple of days i spent twelve of the hours i had meant to spend sleeping
pressing blocks of tofu,
individually sauteing seven different types of vegetables in fresh herbs and aromatics,
and really testing the capacity of my roommate's food processor.

I don't remember when I first started believing that everything that feels good is either dangerous or morally wrong, or, most likely, both, but I imagine it started with the church.

I don't remember when I first started believing that love looked less like a fairytale and more like my best friend falling asleep in my sweater with her head on my shoulder, so close I could smell my shampoo in her hair, but I imagine it started with her.

I once spent six months eating cold unseasoned green beans out of a can for almost every meal because suffering for suffering's sake feels righteous when you believe that you deserve it. I once spent ten years pretending not to be a **** for essentially the same reason.

And lord, am I ever. A ****, I mean. A big, masculine ****,
I have always been more king Kong than Fay wray.
I have always been taught to be afraid of what my hands can do.
I remember big fat ***** depicted as monstrous,
Only able to destroy,
And I wonder if that's why there are so many of us who make things.

i keep a knife in my pocket most of the time because i have been backed into enough corners to be cautious,
but mostly,
i use it for fixing things and cutting fruit.
danger is contagious and i do what i can to stop it from making me dangerous,
I do not want to be a frightened and frightening thing.
but one time a woman i really liked tried to wake me from a nightmare,
and with ghosts still circling my head
Before I was awake or aware,
i punched her in the face.
When I opened my eyes, there was fear in hers and blood pouring from her nose and no amount of apologizing could unbreak what I had broken.
she kissed me and told me she still trusted me and it made me remember all the ****** noses that i had once forgiven with similar ease.
So i told her i was thinking of moving to oregon and that work was getting busy and that i would wash and return her tupperware before she left in case it was a while before i could see her again.
i hugged her at her car
and she held me for too long
like she didn't even notice all the sharp things where my skin was meant to be.
i spent the next six months
bleeding venom and avoiding handshakes.

And I don't mean to say that I am violent,
Because I am not,
I do not yell
Or degrade
Or intimidate,
I never sleep punched anyone else before or since,
I would never hit a friend or a lover while awake. I only wear spikes to make people think before they touch me, I am all flight or freeze. But violence is not the only way to hurt someone you love. Shutting down or running away can break a heart too and blood all looks the same when it's drying on your hands no matter where it comes from. So now I try to protect the people I love from everything dangerous, including getting too close to me.

i keep a knife in my pocket most of the time,
but on days when my body remembers in the present tense,
i take a knife from the kitchen block instead.
i cut up limes and sweet potatoes,
drown out the sirens in my head
with bubbling water and simmering oil.

i'm still learning what love looks like,
and i am so tired of breaking,
and maybe this is why every time i see someone beautiful i fantasize about building them a house,
maybe this is why i make soup.

i am only easy to love
on the days when love is not a life raft.
i have never been afraid of fire
but i am frozen earth
full of ancient seeds,
already there are new green things pushing up through cracks in me
and i worry that if the ground were to thaw,
softer things might take root,
and i am afraid that anything delicate might not survive in me.

It's not that I am wholly unable to love recklessly,
I run whole body into the ocean every time i see her,
emerge breathless and invisible and singing praises to nobody at all but the stars.
The last time I wanted to die, I took an overnight bus to the ocean. I held my breath and dipped my whole body beneath the surface of the sea,
tried to practice drowning but instead,
by mistake,
fell in love all over again with the waves and the moon and the stars,
All the beautiful things too big and too powerful for me to hurt accidentally.
I am a soft foolish thing,
All alive and longing.
I have loved fully
What I always knew I could not hold,
My tiny heart so full of moon and sea
And every mountain
That every place is now both a home
And not.

I am not as afraid as I used to be,
I have done a lot of therapy,
And maybe one day I will sleep next to somebody breakable without feeling guilty.
And I think maybe one day,
I will trust myself enough to love the softest things that love me in the fearless way I love the ocean.
And I don't know when that day will be,
Or whether you will stick around long enough to find out,
but i do know that i want you always to be warm and full of good things,
so in the meantime,
If you want it,
I made you some soup.
Maddie Fay Feb 2019
you: fire
and me: arsonist

i mean,
i think you're hot.
i mean,
i know how to get you going,
but i would never claim to be the boss of you,
i mean,
i marvel at your power.
i mean,
i don't mind if you scorch my eyebrows,
i wanna smell you when i take my hair down.

we bring out the worst in each other,
i mean,
we bring out the most in each other.
we run the gamut from
to revolutionaries
but we are best
when we are both.

me: ice cream,
and you: spoon,
i mean i wanna fill you up,
i mean you make me melt,
i mean
sometimes the sweet things
are simple.

imagine me museum,
all history and velvet ropes,
imagine you scholar,
head full of context and hands in your pockets,
harmonious reciprocity.

imagine this a love song,
me Billy Joel
and you,
Uptown Girl,
imagine the miles stretched out between us crumpled away like two ends of a paper ball,
imagine you road trip
and me apology
imagine us
in some hot town that knows us,
with hair that smells like smoke and matches in our pockets.
Maddie Fay Apr 2018
“be safe,
get some rest,
text me when you get home.”

i used to love a boy
who never lived to be a man.
i was fourteen years old,
in a psychiatric hospital
after swallowing so many
of my mother's pills
that i couldn't remember
her name.
he told me i'd been crying
and rocking back and forth
for two days.
i told him i was cold.
he gave me his sweater.

“be safe,
get some rest,
text me when you get home.”
things i say so often
they have become more incantation
than conversation,
a protective spell rubbed
river-rock smooth
by worried hands.

i say,
“you look cold, take my jacket.”
i say,
“have you eaten today?”
i say,
“here, drink some water.”

i do not say what i am thinking,
which is,
the sharks are circling again,
where is the blood
coming from this time?”

because when i said,
“i love you, stop dying,”
he said,
“go home.”
i said,
“i already am,”
so he killed a fifth of tequila,
cut us both with the bottle,
and passed out in the bathtub.

so when i see the dark fingers
that tug at your bones,
i will not ask you any questions
i don't think you can answer.
we will only talk about things
we have words for,
and if that means
all we talk about
is stars,
then i will spend
a lifetime of tuesday nights
talking to you about stars.
and if staying alive means
going away,
then i will buy you a bus ticket
and tell you to never look back.
dragons were not meant to live
pinned under glass and i would
never ask you to be
anything else
to fit comfortably.

and the last day i see you,
i will not say goodbye.
i will not tell you i'm afraid,
i will tell you i love you,
crank up the stereo,
punk rock screaming
at a purple sky,
and i will drive you home
one last time.
Maddie Fay Mar 2017
the moon is a lesbian,
which i know because she has
kissed every inch of my body
more often than any lover
i've ever known.

i have watched the way
she kisses the ocean
and guides her gently home,
have seen her face reflected with love
in the ever-changing sparkling surface of the sea,
and i don't know any other word
to describe a love like that.

the day we smoked a joint in the woods
and then walked eight miles in the rain
to gas station coffee,
we passed two other gas stations on the way,
but you were holding my hand and
i didn't want it to stop.
you said
"you're beautiful"
and i said
because you were the most remarkable
person i had ever seen,
leaned up against the hood of a stranger's car,
smoking a cigarette like a lesbian james dean.

you'd call yourself
"lesbian" sixteen times before breakfast
until it stopped sounding like venom
and started to sound like a prayer,
because how could i ever look at
love like this and feel anything
but holy?
my new church was the woods
by the river,
and i learned to worship
at the altar of your body.
you took me in your arms and you said,
you're beautiful,"
and i told you i loved you
because beautiful had never
meant anything to me
except that i had something
people could take.
i heard "beautiful" from your lips and it sounded
like a blessing.

the moon is a lesbian because
she knows how to love without taking,
i have scarcely loved a man
who has learned how to love without taking,
that is not to say that no man
can love without taking,
but it is a skill that is learned
through a grief
that i have shared with every
queer woman i have ever met.

when you kissed me in the attic,
it was not the first time
i had been kissed,
but it was the first time that a touch
felt like a gift and not a punishment,
and it was the first time i understood
why people write love songs.
i wanted to write you a love song,
but after a lifetime afraid of my own voice,
all i could sing you were hymns.
not because i had made you an idol,
but because your hands on my body
made me feel clean for the first time.

the moon is a lesbian because
the night i stumbled out of
the apartment of the man
who only loved me when
he thought he could keep me,
blood on my lips and nowhere to go,
the moon kissed my fingertips
and she said,
what took you so long?
welcome home."
Maddie Fay Mar 2017
i had this dream
where i was locked in a glass room,
gasping for air with
thick fingers wrapped tight
around my throat.
the streets outside were crowded,
people stared and screamed,
but no one ever tried
to break the glass.

that's how monday mornings feel,
walking down halls filled with
well-meaning people who would
help if they knew how.
i am a butterfly pinned,
broken and bright and iridescent,
and you cannot look away but
what can you do?
i cannot ask anyone to stick
shattered shards into their skin
just to step between me
and an oncoming train.
i want no one else's knuckles
broken for my safety.
sometimes the wolves
outsmart the shepherds,
and i am softer than i seem
and not built to fight forever.

in my dream,
i kicked my boot bottom-first
through the glass
and sprinted a path through the crowd,
****** and breathless and bruised
and alive because
i know when to stop waiting for
things to make sense.
sometimes the monsters are
stronger than you'd hoped
and some things are not worth
holding onto.

i stopped seeing the shame in
running for my life
the day i ran out of other options.
Maddie Fay Mar 2017
every night you take
your illness up to bed,
the only lover you ever learned to trust.
you open strange eyes on strange mornings
in a body that is not yours,
in a place you don't remember.
you ought to know better.
count all the tiles on the ceiling
thirteen times
and press your teeth
into your tongue.
repeat until you trust yourself
not to say something odd.
it is hard to love a woman
who speaks with spirits over breakfast.

cheap ***** goes down easier
when you're already drunk,
so **** it up and
swallow so much poison
you forget how much
you hate it here.
dance with everyone who asks
and pretend their hands
don't burn your hips.
train your lips to smile
and you'll look just like the living.
it is hard to love a ghost.

a little perfume at your collarbones,
and your lover won't ever notice
the scent of melancholy
that lingers in your hair like smoke.
your red lips will distract
from the disembodied screaming
that tends to tumble at your heels.
you can hide dark circles
under your eyes
by lying face-down on the floor
until you remember how to be fun.

the night is for lovers,
but the stars burn your eyes
and your rusted mannequin body
does not remember how to dance.
the night is for falling,
and police lights,
and crying in a waffle house parking lot.
smile like you still have a chance.

the night knows your secrets,
but if you are lucky,
she just might pretend to forget.
Maddie Fay Feb 2017
monday morning
and my skin still looks like
something you could touch,
but we both know from experience
it would burn you if you tried.
my mouth in the mirror
is soft and still alive
and hides the ghostly grinning skull
we remember from our nightmares.

wednesday every pore is oozing poison,
and when you tell me
i look pretty in my dress,
i can feel the sharp edges of scales
pressing up through thin flowered fabric.
wednesday i slash my lips red,
and as in nature it's a warning.
i am only an animal and
i have been consumed enough times
that my body has
made itself dangerous.

friday is a heavy knit sweater
even though it is warm,
because friday my chest
is caving in
and i cannot stand
even the accidental brush
of someone else's skin on mine.
friday no one tells me
i look pretty
and i fill my lungs a little fuller.

sunday is disembodied echoes,
a bathroom floor,
and a body that has never been mine.
sunday is gorgeous,
because i am not real,
and i am not here,
and all the things that have
happened to this body
have nothing at all to do with me.
sunday i am nowhere, which is
as close as i have ever been
to free.
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