I am watching the water flow over my eyes and I am not afraid. I let the small waves lap over my eyelids and I close them and then I open them again and I am submerged. I do not feel cold. I do not feel pain. I can see the broken glass from the night before shattered next to me, and I want to sigh because it means you’re still there. Watching. Biding your time.
Faintly, in the distance, I can hear the fire alarm in the kitchen going off. There is smoke in the air but I cannot bring myself to care about it. The water is red and I cannot feel pain. I cannot feel pain.
"romance isn’t this. it’s not that sort of love. this is best friends, star crossed and swamp bogged. this is flesh melting off bone. this is death gardens, this is a body farm of emotions rising up to stroke my cheek."
I want to stop dreaming about you. I don’t want your hand on the small of my back. I don’t want your decayed but reassuring smile. I don’t want your companionship, our 3am cigarette breaks, or your cock.
I love sitting outside on the concrete, head bowed, cold seeping through my cheap velvet thrift store dress. I love watching the people who pass by—the ones who ignore me, the ones who throw change, the small children who grin at my strange hair and funny face. The couples dealing drugs on the sly in front of the neighborhood Bookman’s. I love the smoke from a bummed cigarette circling my head; the Madonna of Mallrats, patron saint of switchblade fights and bad decisions.
if i was able, i would say
but hands [around] throat
make things hard.
when you are at a certain age
when innocence is ripped
in favor of lipstick
tasting of berries
in favor of magazines with that
tickly “s” word emblazoned
when they ask you
“who taught you how to kiss?”
how can you answer that you didn’t have a choice?
sticky fondlings in stairwells,
places you have no right to be,
places that are tainted by that action now.
you can’t walk alone without glancing over your shoulder.
things are different now, tar-shadow-flowers
bloom in these places that used to be good,
untouched by flame and rot.
they’re all rotted now,
and your mistbones,
for a moment
turn to lead.
You are poisonous.
I hurry and skid into the tiny, wood paneled room, draw the door behind me, lock it as best as my fumbling, fear-slick fingers will allow. The four foot wide room shifts subtly, bringing me underground, safe from the ravening hoard. Safe. Until it jams.
Wood and leather slip around me, walls sliding closer. Deep oxblood silk pads the panels closest to me.
"What’s going on? What’s happening?!"
A voice out of nowhere, sibilant, feminine, smooth as poisoned chocolate…
"Why, we’re making your coffin, dear. You didn’t think you could escape so easily?"
They’re sitting at the edge of the bed. Slender and pale as their cigarette, sometimes black hair, sometimes green, sometimes shades defying both gender and infinity. They haunt me with the scents of comfort and tobacco, white ghosts so alike I suspect doppelgangers. Sometimes I feel them sit beside me, tousling my hair as I try to sleep, trying to pass it off for the fan. But I know. I know.
1. The first time we slept together, the butterflies inside my stomach evolved into a swarm of bees trying to sting every internal organ, but quieted into a flock of bats hanging upside down from the ledge of my heart once you touched my hand. The next morning they woke up dizzy and disoriented; you said you could hear them moving about inside my ribcage, but at least the butterflies were gone.
2. I told you, “Neither of us can save the other but we can still plant flower seeds inside the grooves of one another’s wrists to remind ourselves not to open up the soil of our lifelines too early.” The next day, the garden was filled with twice as many chrysanthemums as before.
3. You loved me like an arsonist who burns down their childhood home just to watch the ugly memories crumple into ash. I was your one and only good memory, and you were mine.
4. Inside every apartment we stayed in together there are two names scratched into the windowsill. They were never ours, just the work of some strangers who lived there before us, but we always held out hope that maybe one day we’d find some place to call our own.
5. Every time you fell asleep after sex, I traced the tree rings of your lifelines sunken into each palm and pretended they were maps leading to some buried treasure. I only found out later that the treasure was you. I wish I had treated you like gold every single day instead of dirty carbon.
6. You once said, “The first time I saw you, you walked like a question I wanted to do everything in my power to answer until I got it right.”
7. We never did find the right answer together.
8. There are scars lodged inside both hemispheres of my brain that have been tattooed there since we met. Unlike most scars, they were good ones. Each one was my favorite color, and they didn’t hurt getting inked in. But now every time I pass the tattoo parlor, my cerebral cortex screams at me to get them removed since they remind me too much of you.
9. I loved you like bone-breaking: it hurt at first, but the recovery period was even sweeter.
10. We tried to take photographs of one another’s favorite body parts before we realized that would involve getting under the skin.
11. You told me you wanted to buy me a bouquet of sunrises for Christmas, but couldn’t find one that matched the exact shade of my eyes. I told you it’s the thought that counts, so you spent the last six months of our relationship lassoing one in every morning.
12. I whispered “Everything” into your ear fifty-three times before we went to sleep every night so your dreams would echo the words we never had the courage to say to one another.
13. You loved me like that old tale of the tree falling in the forest without anyone else around and whether it made a sound: every time you looked at me when we were alone, you questioned whether anyone else would be able to see what we felt for one another.
14. I should have appreciated you while I still had the chance.
15. My mother said being in a relationship with you was too much of a risk, so I started skydiving to prove her wrong.
16. In bed two weeks before everything ended, you murmured “I’m sorry” into my spine so you could apologize for the way your absence would eventually cripple me.
17. Even your shadow made me want to get drunk- I was jealous of the way it followed you and was always able to touch the soles of your feet, so I downed a shot every time it crossed the floorboards.
18. We couldn’t afford Hawaii or Italy, so we vacationed inside one another’s bodies. I planted palm trees along your vertebrae and swam in the shallows of your hipbones. You twirled me like spaghetti til we both fell to the floor, exhausted. Every day I discovered a new part of you I’d never seen before.
19. You loved me like you’d never find anyone else.
20. Everything was perfect until I started to love you while wishing you were someone else.
if you love someone set them free & if they come back
take them to crime scenes & hold their hands
& at each one you have to tell them
'this could have been us'
i’ll stand on the curb and say ‘sorry about the blood in your mouth, i wish it was mine’ and maybe sometimes i sing to myself to remind myself why i don’t anymore maybe sometimes i write about you to remind myself why i stopped.
the light at the end of the tunnel is a lit cigarette and the world is my ashtray still praying for twists of fate even after you find that fate is a name for the knife in your neck cupid was never a myth maybe metaphor always aiming for the throat.
She spat out the syllables in between cigarettes, the first being snuffed like a bad horror film in the overflowing ashtray in front of my hands, and before she could let me light the next, “I’m less of a writer and more of a goddamned hack. This should be my livelihood.” I nodded, understanding, and not the false Hallmark card brand of understanding, labelled under “Condolences.” I knew the burn of rejection letters all too well. Some of them, however, written on tongues rather than letter paper still smelling like inkjets. I took a sip of my coffee, barely starting to cool from singe to slow burn.
At one point in time I abhorred the idea of keeping count. Of anything, no matter how important or trivial. Month anniversaries were pointless, time keeping was redundant. But after you put the first literal notch in my headboard after we fucked for three hours, barely pausing to regain ourselves, I fell a bit deeper into your situation. My headboard is covered now, little hatches made with my knife, a bobby pin, anything sharp enough to carve into the antique wood, through chipped black paint.
"The words used to come so easily when I was younger." She mumbled, those same words like slick marbles, obscuring her tongue, tumbling from her lips. "And then I think, ‘Younger? I’m only twenty-two!’" She buried her head in her hands, cigarette danger-close to setting the great teased spider tangle of her hair ablaze. I smiled briefly at the mental image of her going up like a trick candle. Her voice chokes.
"I’m terrified of being too good at something. Maybe that’s why all my shit goes unpublished, or unfinished. Maybe that’s why all my fucking relationships fail." Her voice quavers, stifled by the throbbing of her traitor-heart. "I can never find a place to live, or a steady job, because of…because of you!" She nearly yelled. That managed to startle me. She’s normally so soft-spoken. This is what happens when caffeine and nicotine take over the place of medication.
"You can’t keep couch-hopping forever, you know." "I KNOW THAT. But what choice do I have? I won’t be another fucking statistic. I won’t be the Homeless Insane Girl, trademarked and everything. Screw that." She looked away, anger-tears like stained glass against the curve of blue and white, the skinslip of pink. I press my cigarette into my bony hand, not wincing, not flinching, only watching the shapes in the smoke the color of my hair run rampant, hoping you can’t divine and twist them into a new fate.
"We’re all just unreported cases of domestic violence against ourselves, I guess."
Tonight I traipsed through the city with breadcrumbs as my guide, lunasugar from the harvest moon melting on my tongue, sucked eagerly from his slender, pale fingers. I bit the heads from juicy, acquiescent bugs, kissed the venom from snakes, and laughed with all the fullness of an autumn honeycomb; I tasted fate and danced with phantoms.
I pull out the yellow cigarette; the one for ataraxia.
at•a•rax•i•a [at-uh-rak-see-uh] -noun 1. a state of freedom from emotional disturbance and anxiety; tranquility.
Smoke in the eye, a painful wince, breathing deep into the hole of my hollow stomach; I’ve arrived again but I’m not sure why (or how). My skin is sticky and warm like honeysuckle but the cold liquid down my throat chills my insides. Sensation has returned; if even temporarily.
I’m killing flies in a serial manner. Quick. Efficient. This is not the Me I’m used to. Zoloft makes me frantic and shaky, Depakote makes me numb. Welbutrin makes my movements slow, and Restoril, it makes me sleep like stone.
Ataraxia; I really like that one.
I’ll light a green smoke. Something for indecision and default ease. Undeserving of any complications. How funny it is to be and be alive at all. Mind, why did you wake up? August, August; you are no woeful June but I never saw you as a yolk bleeding open. I need the tick-tick of my typewriter, “He touched my face and the blacks of my eyes turned into gaping wells; and I felt.”
Nicotine and coffee are the foods of poets, and love: the weeping pen. I could immolate this paper because I must see something burn. These nails are bitten to the nerve and they keep growing back weaker, but they return anyway.
A couple tiny pages? This proves nothing but the possibility of a lapse in chemicals flowing or dendrites firing. Synapses, dendrites… these aren’t just words! They’re in my head and they’re never sleeping.
I think I want to go back to the ward. I’ve been taking time off and my head is clearing. I feel able. That isn’t something I’ve said in quite some time. I think I’d better call Lisa. She’ll have the insight I often lack.
Red, red, red. The more times you say a word the more obscure it feels. A red one for disturbance. Anxiety, passion, power; everything strong and extreme. I can’t stop because I need to run or bleed.
There goes the wincing again; sharp smoke to the eye. My hands are sweaty and the pen keeps slipping. I feel I must warn myself. I’m dying but doing it faster now.
Drop my cigarette, burn a hole in my dress. I feel the calm pulling away. This is the slow descent from sanity to which I return.
Pink: the color of delicate things. Babies, flowers, paper, wind, wings; skin. Ideas, they can be pink, but are often blue.
I think about holding my tiny yellow bird loosely in my hand and stroking it’s silky feathers. Such a fine spun thing to hold a life in your grip and not take that life away. Death is a light thing as if pulling a silver thread from the mouth between gentle thumb and forefinger. How I crave you again and again.
I’m sighing and laying here under a polka dotted blanket listening to the sky roar and the quiet rumble of snoring. Everyone is asleep at two in the afternoon, it’s Labor Day, and I want to die.
It’s not a conscious decision to feel that way. I’ll just see something, anything that will set me off, and I’m back in my neat little hole again, not bothering to sink my fingernails into mud and clay, not bothering to worry about an alternate escape route when I could just suffocate here.
Suicidal ideation is nothing new to me. The idea that most people don’t have these thoughts so frequently is baffling to me. I wonder what it must be like, to not look over a freeway overpass and sigh, contemplating steel and glass impact.
The thunder is starting to shake the apartment. I have a migraine headache, and there’s no caffeine, and I’m running low on cigarettes. Once the storm passes, I’ll walk to the store and pick some up and smile, because each stick is a step closer.
my mind moves too fast for poetry. but sometimes i catch up, and lately there’s no love in my murdering you anymore. no devotion in the hot spattering of your blood against my face as you spit it out, arrogant and too proud to die ugly, no laughter in my throat as I kiss yours while i slit it, no joy in the splintering of your bones and harvesting of marrow no there is no love in killing you and just that fact makes me wonder which of us, in the end is really dead.
i dont want this poem to be gentle. greedy girl-child, you thought all my words and thoughts were meant for you that on some intrinsic level everything was about you you are deluded beyond repair and if it werent so damned sad it would be comical my words dont tumble gracefully from cupids bows like polluted desperate waterfalls just for you not anymore.
I need to create something that will howl in fear and bleed simply because it is new simply because it can i need to feel something other than that howl in my bones ricocheting off my ribs to expand out in circles my loneliness is lessened in your arms and that is this is what fear peace vulnerability tastes like and i think that maybe this time i just might enjoy it.
i wish i still knew every detail of your days, the liquid measure of each of your steps and the sound of your throat getting caught in emotion, the bittersweetness of your tears and the gentle rain of your laughter.
i wish my irrational jealousy for anyone in your life would finally fade.
I know intimately the sharp curve of your shoulder, the silkstrong slip of your skin when humidity finds its home, the sleep-swollen smile, dazed almond eyes glinting gold in sunset air.
I know you only shower with scalding water and the way you shudder under its penance. I know the way your hair fans in the pool when you glide up to catch me. I know the easy way you laugh like molasses and the way your graceful fingers pinkie promise and caress your cigarette-lifeline after every meal, every movie, every game, every breath clotted with smoke