all i want is to meet the sea as an equal.
when the words don’t come, it’s time to
go hold my head under the water in the
bathtub, break another heart. such things
these days are locusts in my hair. i’ve
learned to flinch at the setting of the sun,
wondering if what they said about me
was true after all. i read my diagnosis again
and again. intense stormy interpersonal
relationships. can’t keep a friend to save
her life. often dates the people who sew
up her wounds. i put the paper down and
blot at my wrist. this kind of seepage was
meant for lovers less than 250 miles apart.
there is no truth other than what lies in my heart.
still tonight she writes with words in water
a curl of blood as lonely as a soliloquy; even
shadow bends away from her light that is more
like a flicker of fiber optics rather than some
constant glow–she lifts lidless eyes to the moon
and asks for guidance but tonight the sky is full
of faraway answers that stray into questions dark
as eyelashes and full as the bathtub she stands
in, and each time she bends to scrub her skin
the water sinks into the drain and back again
where the starkness of a candle flame betrays
her in its hurricane lamp–she is left between
a memory and a moment, an evaporating stare,
a graceless hand and a fistful of air.
i am an asterisk on the bed, an aster just picked,
hovering over your shoulder with my hands full
of caveats–the truth is, it was never easier
to lie to myself than when i knew i was right
about how much i wanted to fabricate an alternative
to these days where i don’t belong to myself,
never wanted myself, and yet can’t imagine wanting
anything different. a cluster of stars in the pit
of my stomach that give me heartburn will eventually
die one day and then i’ll be sucked back into myself,
complete in my own vast emptiness. if only all of life
were just a matter of physics–my words just free-fall
back up into my mouth when i try to vomit them out
where the lightness of evisceration is not an illusion.
the weeks pass and i become convinced that my headaches stem
from the quartz crystal i have not cleansed that sits by my
headboard. i run it beneath water, let it catch the sun’s light,
bathe it in the light of the full moon, blow sharply over it
while brushing the tip with my thumb. the headache persists.
i then begin to think that it is caused by those endless hours
spent squirming beneath florescent lights, where i writhe and
twist to try and avoid the giant pin is trying to come down
and stick me in my abdomen so i will stay in place. i throw
out all my needles and call in sick to work but the pressure
inside my head only seems to be getting worse. surely it
must be the humidity, surely it must be the dry air–i vacuum
seal my head in a plastic bag but there is no relief. these
days i can’t tell it the pollutants are coming from outside
where i dug around in the banks of the river or from inside
(which might be more poisonous) or from the radiant glow
coming from my refrigerator. my head is on the verge of
exploding. i think of all the built up rot in my head from
years of watching television and falling prey to a perpetual
game of telephone inside my throat that takes what i mean
and morphs it into something so awkward and alien i can’t
even gather up the guts to say it’s mine. the relentless
gush of memory never stops, i have called the plumber and
they have given me the wrench, i have called the doctors
and they have given me the pills, but nothing seems to work.
and now i’m getting desperate. i want these cycling images
of you to stop. i want to forget the hugs that were always
too tight. you gripped me as though i were something that
might try to get away. i should have told you that i wanted
nothing more than just to stay. now my headache is blinding,
i can’t see your eyes, the color i never could catch because
you never looked me straight in the eyes long enough, not once.
so i pull the chain, listen to the whirr–this won’t hurt a bit.
feels like another failure–
a boy who is unable to love runs his fingers through a girl’s hair–
it feels forced and they both know it, the touch that is a little too
deliberate, a little too rushed–bodies that should be opened up like
gifts are instead shook until what’s inside breaks. but he is already
broken. and she is too tired to explain. they lie like empty wrappers
on the floor, already passed over for newer, shinier objects.
expand, moving up like a gliss on my heart–
my heart that beats too fast, arrythmic coagulation of uneven memory,
concentric pulses that light up your screen with a green dot–i am here—
no, i was never there. i am present between the shaking fingers of a hand
held up beneath light that might sooner sear than warm. first they thought
they could cure me, that pain could be poulticed with a pill to the head,
but pull the trigger and you begin to see where it all unravels. i begin
to think exorcism is the only option–
contract, moving down like an anvil on my heart.
waiting for the day to break in to something more,
i curry addiction with broken-fingered resignation
to leave this dilated sphere sooner than anyone might
have imagined. in the darkness that curls around me
like the underside of a leaf, i am as safe as i might
be inside plato’s cave, making shadow puppets on the
walls. i think about my father who i don’t visit but
look for in every older man i meet, how i never
measure up in ways small and large, from not being
able to roll a cigarette to not being a good daughter,
and how i don’t find myself relating to my old music
anymore, how angst has been replaced by the kind of
reluctant complacency that one gets from growing old,
how beauty needs to be pointed out to me like staring
at a painting for a long time and not seeing how many
different shades of green there are. everything just
looks grass-green, waiting to be cut by the lawnmower,
a monoculture half-obscured by the blindness of an
aching fatigue that grows with every passing year.
in the shower, i notice the veins roping along the
backs of my hands, and i want to cut them out with
a razor, string them around my neck to show proof
of how hard i work to be loved, but a coin under the
tongue is not enough fare, and i will be stranded
on the banks for all of eternity with a full pack of
cigarettes and a lighter empty of fluid.
we are too tired for poetry now
bones congealing inside their sacks of flesh
i drink glass after glass of water with a lodestone
at the bottom, just to keep together these days
once a man broke me in order to have me
and i let him
once i loved a girl
but she didn’t let me
once i leave none of this will matter
the grasses beside the highway
are sprouting white feathered tips
that i could brush with my fingers
if i just leaned out the car window
a little more
i practice portraiture with the tip of my lit cigarette
but the eyes never stay just right
i don’t have a room, a space of my own
where i can lie naked spread-eagled on the floor
and wait for them to stone me
so you’ll find me down by the river,
wearing my coat with the large deep pockets
i never wanted to be more than anything other than what i wasn’t. is that so much to ask.
i never kept what wasn’t given to me, never felt anything but a need to be absolved
of sins i would yet commit because the DSM said it would be so. in the living room
we made a map of our future with perforated dreams and an inkwell of our sweat–
that winter was over by the time the cigarette smell finally faded from the porch
and you left me for limbs that looked like mine but weren’t, almond-eyed lampshades
that flickered on and off while i sat tonguing the electrical outlet, thinking about
how i don’t know love only obsession, how your hip bones were two poles i sailed
between with my teeth, how you may go around the world–but remember it’s just a circle.
pirouette on a brain cell
my love for you is an electrical impulse by synapse
to a map of words burned through paper with chemical
intention, something heavier than a lead pipe
that smashes my head into a flutter of boids
pixilated flocks of smattered fragments
that eclipse the image of you in my retina.
and everything is so tenuous,
relationships a matter of optics,
if your cheekbones look better
from the left or the right
beneath the streaming desk light
where you have laid your head down
to draft a dream
that falls apart upon first light,
where i kissed you and where
you wake with a bruise on your face
and a fistful of tiny white paper squares
that turn and dart to the left,
now to the right.
i live in the chronicles of tree rings
a forest all cut down with 29 markings.
(on this fourth day of the eighth month,
one day before some girl
heaved me out me of her onto the ashes
nearly three decades ago)
the lion burns in the sky–
i burn on the ground.
as my origins are speculative at best,
i sometimes wonder if i am purely korean
if being so yellow or so white is just a projection
i can remember being happy when i was twelve–
that makes me part cicada.
he says it’s a lie, that the mother bird
won’t take the baby bird back
once it’s been touched by human hands
i don’t google it, afraid of knowing
whether or not i can go home
after what human hands have done to me.
my small pale life,
how i try so hard to be happy with it.
i simply stopped reading fiction
when i could no longer bear
the truths that lay within it–
in reality, it is so much easier to lie.
i am not a half looking for another half to make me whole.
i am looking to be a whole unto myself.
i need to remember this.
it does not matter if we are the makers of the dream–
we forget our dreams, and so we forget ourselves.
you find me in the morning, bruised and exorcised of sleep–
my lips are left somewhere between the scab of sky
and the dead buried beneath us–
the rest of my face lost somewhere between your palms.
we are subsumed in the grief of our aging bodies,
but are learning to laugh without the shame of youth.
it’s good when the bones show,
her fingers say to me as they dig into my clavicle
she vivisects me
and holds me up to the light
scraping my ribs bare
i will (shop)lift the dirt from your body,
and my bones will bleach to the purest white,
a shade still too dark for her,
not by the sun,
but by her pelvic bone that curves like a knife,
her words that cut to the marrow.
she is looking for
the moon but only ever
finds its reflection
what is it to stay the same
what is it to wake up each morning
and feel like the same
girl woman person thing
with memories intact and a steady emotional barometer
(continuity of emotion is overrated in this 21st century.)
i want to live a life (mostly) without glory
i want to be just like everyone else
but we have all these neat compartments
that we dangle people over
and then let them fall
box me in with walls made of memory
call me stupid.
my brain doesn’t work right
it tells me to be different
when the rest of you are the same
but when we’re different from each other
we’re both being the same.
the ocean always changes
and yet is always the same
(it’s always there.)
will i say the same for you
or would you be different?
winter smoldered against our faces, ash gray and black lined our cheekbones–
no, that was just my cigarette. we had abandoned my car to look for warmth
and found frigid waves instead–i should’ve brought a blanket, dammit—
bottles of brandy keep the bloodcurrents flowing–i don’t drink! i yelled
over the surf and all i can remember is the sea’s shush telling me to be quiet
and i was quiet for a while, thinking about how lucky we were to be in love
where we were sitting, staring at the sea but still i was always waiting for
him to turn his head, to turn his head away from the sea, to look at me.
the moon is indifferent to iPhones, cellulite on thighs,
what you looked like when you woke up this morning
bruised from dreaming
i have a case of ocular disorientation that mixes up waxing and waning
(so i think our love grows when it is really diminishing)
my body is tied to the moon
like the way i am tethered to old poems
but all this food coloring is fucking it up
now my flow is out of sync
in the infinity found in any given moment of sleep
and the television just brays emptiness
all i want this year is an iUnplug
is there an app for that?
chip away at the geologic fractures in my skull to find fossilized memory:
we were standing on an expanse of wood flooring and i felt the sudden urge
to dance there above the boat basin where we had little to moor–shucking off
our possessions we stood on a tiny beach littered with trash that was our haven
of found objects: a water chestnut mistaken for a skate egg casing, driftwood,
my heart half-buried in coarse sand. we followed the winding road further
still, the sun-glint spreading its shoulders over the water, my arm draped
across your shoulder as i ran my fingers through the tiny curls at the base
of your neck. the leaves were just starting to spread their blush across
the sky, succored by my fingers across their bark, your lips across the lobe
of my ear. the morning rang its brass bells begotten of wind and we were reborn
in cascades of water, one with the river currents, the currents of our hearts.
with sundered skulls we skittered through the streets
damp with neon closer to the edges where the lights fell off
our red-rimmed eyes like margarita glasses dipped in cayenne pepper
i turned to you and asked how many hearts have gone up our noses
you laughed with star-flash teeth and had yourself another
the descent of dreams rolls downwards like skulls,
all those flower-tucked eyes & neon day-glo smiles.
there is a day for the dead but no day for the living
unless all days are days for the living, the sheer
amount of days rendering them all worthless.