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.
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
this is how we change–nautilus chamber, spokes of a wheel
some passion i don’t speak about. i see the growth curl, i see
it siphoning water and glory, i see its breath as it breaks through
the gutter and reaches towards the sky–my waist expands rotted
wood and i feel tendrils of myself steadying, then sinking, then
sinking. peat-moss fingers on me–i kiss them as i would the muzzle
of my lover’s gun and dose myself just to be sure–hazy smoke-filled
thought these days leaves me nostalgic for the past and angry about
what happened then, all those wrongs adding, multiplying, staggering
the numbers–just when i think i will tear you key from key you hit
depressed ivory notes and i can feel the terror in them, the quiet
hatred and the laughing crow and the white egret and the great
blue heron all become one sinuous figure in my mind, a summation
of all the greatest parts of my life–a raindrop staining a window that
you turn from when you hear someone call your name down a hall
in a house that is torn bit by ragged bit from my memory, until all
the edges are worn–i remember who has died and who has remained
and wonder who is the better for it. the sunglint is too much–it blinds
me with its radiant angle, its disastrous glare in the rearview of my
youth, and the sparksun becomes a single point of light–i press it
into your hand, then scatter.
where were you when the light was gone,
after it had dropped like a stone below
the horizon of my body, that vanishing point
of myself where i was alone. a dip of tonal static
and you might hear my torn voice scratching
at the walls, don’t look at me, my face like
a broken windshield. you wintered in the eaves
of my heart but the spring drove you in search
of more hospitable dwellings. do not under-
estimate the malice of a picket fence when
it pierces your skin, where i fell with scabs
on my back and a dark twist of hair lamenting
its own length as you plucked ingots of tears
from my eyes, beautiful and worthless.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
where were you when the light finally faded:
i was an afterimage of a firework in the sky
a string of bokeh lights, which are beautiful
because of the very fact that they are out of focus
and i teeter on the edge of a blurred curve,
a blue and white city skyline seen through
a glass of water. these filaments of loneliness
thread through the air where the light never hits,
and when i speak of these things that wake me
too early in the pre-dawn, my words are orbs of
light, fuzzy-edged, describing the intangible,
things that balk at illumination and leave me
flattened to the earth as a shadow that is still
inextricably linked to the light, that cannot exist
without the light. and i would meet you in these
dark places with hands full of ash, just to wake
with you and cup the sunrise over your sleeping
body till you ignite, so that i might exist as
nothing more than an outline on the wall.