how do i explain all the lost time, the mornings
spent sitting motionless when i should have been
exploding like a star, throwing light in all directions,
crippled by inertia and the thought that no one may
ever forgive me, ever, and that i am still that same girl
from fifteen years ago, slinging blood and hate and pills
and we like our memories shaken, not stirred
but the trees have already dropped their acorns of ire
and my skin is studded with seeds that grow too fast.
my lighter is empty but i still have a box of matches.
i used to climb trees trying to be closer to the sun,
but it was just the reflection from the airplanes.
a satellite emerges from my head but the signal is lost
and i used to think freewheeling was fun, but now i’m
nauseous with regret and the downhill doesn’t stop
until you hit a tree limb the ghosts of some teenage
kids left in the street. all those things i never told you
are sealed behind the flesh that has grown over my mouth
and instead flood forth from my eyes, bathtubs flowing over
the porcelain lip of reason. i was supposed to be past all this,
i was supposed to be all growth like the lushest rainforest,
my brain a well-tended garden, my heart a conifer that never
would brown, and i would try to reframe this all,
but i have already dropped the match.
my head is a time capsule of memory:
bury me only to dig me up years later,
after the ribbon cutting ceremony
blessing the old graveyard for a new
we’ve got nowhere to build but up now.
inside: letters turned to cinder turned to ash,
a well-loved prescription bottle of pills turned
to powder, provider name and phone number
blacked out, just these four words,
take two at bedtime. then
an asterisk and a fold-out tome of
side effects, but maybe sleep can erase
these led lights and flat screen melodramas.
in the apartments, the tenants find their
kitchen drawers open and all the knives missing,
but the cat stays asleep on the windowsill
so nobody panics.
the walls are too thin. conversations
penetrate the membranes: “what’s it like to be alive?”
somewhere buried in that time capsule
is the answer to that, too.
at least i used to think so.
we put our mouths on mute,
and suck in the air conditioned atmosphere.
in another hundred years, this will again
be a graveyard, just not the kind you thought.
i wait for the ear plug to expand in my canal
after the first time, it’s hard to get a good seal.
my shoulders ache despite morning yoga
like rubbing your belly and patting your head
i can either breathe, or i can move,
but not both, not at the same time.
the ear plugs are for when i can’t bear
the whoosh of the air conditioner
the phone with its digital ringtone
the tin-can radios, talk-show droning,
cowboy twanging, disney theme songs.
i take a step towards the doorway,
pause and breathe, then take another step
lock myself in the bathroom for an hour,
staring at my face in the tiny round mirror
that is hung too high. a disembodied head
with shadows under half-lidded eyes,
compressed purple foam in my ears
–it fills an empty space for now.
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.
i might have woken up
detached myself from you
like a shadow leaving an object
detached myself from feeling
and remembering what feeling
the rationale lacking
some secret voice inside me
intense, stormy interpersonal relationships
my hips are not meant children
children crawling out of them
children tied to them
children clinging to them
staring up with wide eyes
staring up with nightmares in their eyes
the reflection of their mother in their eyes
i knew this wouldn’t work. you can’t get away
with having your point-five kids because someone
will eventually coming looking for the other half
and they’ll call DYFS when they find the mess
and what of you?
with a kiss, i could send you over the cusp
a whisper of breath to send you over the edge
there would be no coming back, you say.
we can never go back.
the thing about not having one is that you always have
to get someone else’s: you used to pick up odds and ends
of speech, incorporate it into your own vocabulary, words
for feelings of chronic emptiness and impulses to spend
money and take a razorblade to yourself (although that
has become more of an occasional occurrence now). you
couldn’t spend too much time around doctors because
you’d start quoting whole passages from the DSM about
what it’s like to not know who you are, in clinical
terms, of course. you wore masks for a while but people
could still recognize you by the scars on the rest of
your body, you wore hats but everybody always knew it
was you. and who were you? you tried on personality
types like ill-fitting shirts, thinking to yourself
this is it. this is me. this is who i am. but a button
would fall off or you’d get your sleeves dirty and you’d
have to take it off. underneath was your torso, marked
with dotted lines in sharpie, sectioning off the genres
and subgenres of who you were that day, that minute.
you’d steal the way someone stood as they waited for
the bus stop on the corner, thinking this seems like the
way i would stand, you’d morph your thinking to match
whoever happened to be across the table from you, you’d
dress the dress and act the act, trying to blend in,
right before you snatched someone’s affectation right
out from under them. you’d go to the zoo and look at
the octopi and the chameleons in their cages and whisper
to them to tell you their secrets. they never answered.
these pills are virgin blue and cleanse my mind
of thought until i am a blank canvas but not meant
for paint or ink. hang me in a museum somewhere
under glass, titled: effacement.
i think (when i can think) that i might one day
go again to the lighted room with the buddha statues
and the plants, the brocade the on decorative hutch,
that heaven must be a psychotherapist’s office.
he reassures me that he never fucks his wife
and i swallow this as some sour pill, or else
let it dissolve like aspirin under the tongue.
but the throbbing in my temples doesn’t go away.
some days my head is a refrigerator. the grapes
wrinkled and the avocados turning pasty. some days
i remember that i can’t remember, and then every-
thing is okay, just before it softens and blurs out.
we are touched with fire
you have cut the clock into seconds when you think you are okay
when you have torn the captain’s badge from your shirt
and now no one can hold you accountable
no one will know
we sing songs of madness and desire
in a cage hanging off the side of a hospital,
a girl will sit and write in her notebook [having been allowed a pen]
and will write HELP over and over again
until she runs out of paper and must write between the scars
we purge ourselves of fear
how many times must you cut yourself
until all the bad is gone
until all the guilt is gone
until you yourself are gone
the ship is sinking. but you are convinced no one will know.
you throw out the logs, smash the compass, wipe your finger
prints from the wheel, from the walls, from this position
you never wanted–you only wanted to see the sea, you only
wanted to be enveloped by white-tipped waves that tasted
so familiar to you, that tasted of your own tears. you thought
you had left that girl in the hospital behind. but now she
watches you with eyes from the curl of the last wave as the mast
breaks and the people scream and you begin to wash the deck
with a bucket of your own blood.