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 am tired of lessons
tired of the stillborn
tired of incurable young kids
tired of the smell of death
on the highway
where they haven’t moved
the corpse of an animal
for six days
i am told they are teaching souls,
the ones who die young.
what kind of lesson
am i supposed to learn
from a dead baby deer
on the side of the road
what kind of lesson
am i supposed to learn
from a baby blue with
an umbilical cord
wrapped around its neck
things that get the life taken from them
before they can even open their eyes
maybe it’s just my birthday
coming up in my throat
the palpable feeling of decay
that everyone walks around with
and tries to ignore
maybe it doesn’t mean anything.
maybe it’s trying to tell me
that i’m better off.
i’m not sure which is worse.
my mind is a denizen of the sky–
when i try to inhabit my body i am
disgusted. my head is a reference
for my mind. when i inhabit my head
it splits open with thought, not being.
i am ungrounded yet still tethered,
my heart beats but does not make
a sound. i bury it in salt each night
to keep it intact. when the light comes,
i am under the sheets and shivering
a dead butterfly caught in my throat.
a spider tries to follow, and i swallow.
i would say to the stars, give me wisdom
or give me death, but they are already
dead, and their ghosts laugh as they
shine down on my emptiness.
some days i can’t keep my head atop
my shoulders, and let it roll off, into
the weed-choked ditch. it simmers
beneath the summer sun, and my
mouth is full of mud from which no
lotus will grow. i want the world to
take me from myself, and i want
my self to be taken back to the sky.
the clouded landscape will take my
pain, and i will be released as vapor,
to rain down on the earth again.
the seed has been planted
the willow will wave
the redwood will tower
and the oak will be strong
against your back
this is how you learn
how to lose anger
how to keep sadness spacious
that space within the heart
that knows its own death
pour yourself like water into clear glasses
let them drink from you
and see their own reflections
and know who they are
the glass is most beautiful
right as it slips from your hand
right before it hits the floor
right when it shatters
not everything broken
begs to be fixed.
she detested the maneuvering and sidestepping that always accompanied
the crossing over the threshold, over into that place that stymied all the thrashings
of her elegantly violent soul. she was a satellite–she sat in the middle of the room
surrounded by glass walls and, when appropriate, pulled out clots of her blood
and tossed them into the wastebasket. no one saw her. but they watched her all
nothing is truly sacred here; nothing is truly profane
we turn magpies into martyrs and our fresh carrion idols
glisten in the lamplight like beads of sweat upon your
forehead–even my jocular insufficiencies seem like they
could be used to wipe your pedestal, that marbled glass
that bears witness to the tedium of the day–were it only
for the irises in my hands, your eyes, i could give them
up to the unappeasable gods and pray for blood to water
the soil that will eventually cradle me as softly as the
woman who birthed me did, or at least must have, or at
least–maybe not. my skin turns to parchment that coils
in your hand like origami by any other name, and the
cranes fly into your mouth like a building, shattered.
what i fear most is the day when i wake up
and the forsythia are only yellow
and the magnolias are only pink
and my blood is only red–
when i am only able to tell the truth,
but the worthless truth,
about the world.
the wishing has gone to the bottom of the well
but the words come now like an ocean swell
at the edge of the world is a girl perplexed
she does not know if she should stay or flex
the wheat that is not wheat grows with the weeds
when you are dead you can no longer plant any seeds
change your name, change your face
soon you’ll be going to a different place
a place where the moon is always dark
but you hold in your cupped hand a spark
sometimes it can be more than just a trope,
this thing called hope.
not even breath will save you now, we drown in azure lightness
with honeycomb hearts that crumple at the slightest touch.
i have been here. i have been here before, at this place where
i am alone with myself and insane. my arms are starlit scars
that open again and again like mouths that will not shut up,
and the flesh of my abdomen swells with infection that i carry
as close to me as a baby, something i refuse to give up, for
without it, there is no meaning left in the lover’s touch so
soft against my face that pulls you in like a black hole–
you look at me and you are already doomed. there are teeth
that grind bone to powder here and lies as big as universes,
memory that has gone to ash but you can still wake and feel
the grit of it on your tongue. i was never more trapped than
when they said i could go. i was never more afraid than when
i had to name myself, explain myself for what i was and what
i had done. for how do you explain nothing, nothing, nothing.
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.