time capsule

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
condominium development.
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.

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plugged

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.

identity theft

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.