Last summer I stopped eating.
I think was trying to disappear.
When fall came and I started leaving
I wished I could be small enough
to be deemed invisible, inconsequential.
I am not good at this.
Packing your bags, you asked if it was your fault,
the anxiety, the not eating.
How I’d make meals and push them around my plate,
put them in the fridge, leave them for days.
But oh, how I was praised.
You look great, they said.
You can do so much better, they said.
Everyone, even you
saw purpose in my actions.
And I told you that sometimes
it hurts to swallow and sometimes
my stomach is in too many knots.
Still, I kept cooking
like I tried to keep loving you.
it is all in the motion
it is all in the repetition.
stir, cut slice.
I can get better.
stir, cut, slice.
I can be normal.
stir, cut, slice
we won’t go to bed hungry
Someone said you drank last night,
just one glass of wine, they said
then back to water.
I didn’t notice.
I wasn’t standing near you, because I don’t anymore.
But I heard you.
You were talking about your new girlfriend.
She’s young. She has short hair.
I bet she is just discovering riot girl.
Someone told me she wore butterfly wings
her entire freshman year of college.
She writes stories about you,
you read them,
she submits them to The New Yorker.
I want to say “that’s adorable,”
I want to say, “how quirky.”
but I can’t figure out a way to sound less mean.
I heard you’ve already said “I love you,” and I see you
laying in bed, your hands in her hair,
her legs wrapped around your torso.
She probably fits next to your slight body
Someone said you drank last night,
they mentioned it off hand, they looked surprised
when I reacted with concern.
They don’t know it’s never
just one glass.
And she’s never seen you
drunk and dangerous.
She’s never seen you that kind
For her, you are always
on your best behavior.
I say happiness when I mean
For me, your heart had holes in it.
everything I put in
leaked out of it.
You’re standing next to the kitchen sink
in tattered cut-off jean shorts,
in converse sneakers,
faded peach or light green,
halfway laced, folded down
around your ankles.
Your collarbone jutting out,
I am looking at it with envy.
We’re in the country house
the one with too many mice,
the ones that crawled in the cupboards at night,
and I can still hear them:
the opening, the shutting, echoing.
Mother, when I see you,
you’re always smoking,
cigarette in one hand, hair twirling,
to alternative rock,
scolding me for my love
of perfect radio pop,
another plastic tumbler of boxed wine,
how it spills and stains the counter, your mouth red,
and your lips the dark purple
of the bruises on your legs.
These days, you smoke in secret.
You close the porch door
so no one can see you,
even if they can still smell it
three rooms over.
Even if I can still smell it
on your bony fingers.
You tell me there is something inside you,
you’re just not sure what,
maybe cancer, maybe not,
wrapping your thin arms
around your small frame.
and I think you are disappearing
right in front of me,
you are smaller than ever before.
We are not here.
There is no room for us
in the quiet comfort of your sobriety,
in your dimly lit living room.
We never left those mice, that kitchen,
you’re still standing near the smashed open window,
saying you are thinking
about giving up smoking.
I am afraid of setting something on fire.
The only lights right now are the ones we hold:
Small, white candles, clasped in our hands.
Like a vigil.
A choir sings Silent Night,
everything calm, everything bright,
and your eyes are shining when they meet mine.
It is brief, but it feels serious, and all I can think
is I hope I look prettier in candlelight.
We are praying to a God I don’t believe in,
but you do.
So I am praying I can be desirable,
I am praying you will desire me.
We talked about heaven once.
“Hell is where God isn’t.
and heaven is an ideal,
it is redemption.”
I wanted to believe in that, then.
I wanted it more than anything,
When you held my hand,
when you squeezed it back,
and I could smell scotch on your breath—
I wanted to believe more than anything
that we could still be redeemed.
It was Fall when we first met,
but it should have been winter.
I remember walking with you and thinking:
this ground should already be frozen.
But the first night you came over,
with darkness on your breath,
dressed in all black, a cigarette in your mouth
it finally felt like winter.
And all is calm,
and all is bright.
I believe if we open up our bodies birds would come out and I believe that they would be brown, black, blue, and I don’t think they would all be alive. I think of your hand and I wonder what that means. I think of my father’s hands—soft, doughy, how they never wanted to stay too long next to me. I think about all the things I didn’t inherit from my mother—her addictions, her breasts, her five foot four figure, and I wonder what I’ll get eventually. When she laid down on bare bathroom floors, I was eleven and too young to know how to respond to your mother screaming to no one and grabbing at ankles, how do you calm down the inconsolable —I am still trying to figure out. We’re all still so inconsolable. Sobbing, sweating, messes, full of snot and sneezes. When we sleep it is fitful when I dream it’s a druggy haze, it’s all sedatives and nonsense, and sometimes I see your face and sometimes I tell you and sometimes I don’t. Here is a list of everything that has ever scared me and here is me lighting it on fire. When I was five years old I decided to never sleep facing the door and I still won’t, when I was five I told my mother “if someone is coming to kill me I just want to die without knowing” and I was so precocious, so precious, so full of wit and wonder. I talk about the last time I prayed and meant it. I was twelve and the car was spinning and she was drunk and I thought “please don’t let us die” and we didn’t die. We landed in our neighbor’s yard, headlights shining into their dark living room. I think if my mother’s voices came to me at night I’d ask them what they wanted all these years, why they told her to do all the things she did, or didn’t. I’ll think about having blue hair and being fifteen and not fitting in anywhere and my stepmother saying she’d fix me but I was never fixed. Now Christmas is over so I won’t talk about the isolation—how the blinking lights make me shake, make me slip on ice, how I’m never wearing appropriate shoes, how I’m always walking too fast. I want to tell my father, it’s fine, I never loved you either, enjoy your vacations. There are so many things you’ll never know.
I write down a list of everything that could kill me,
I write your name down twice,
for cadence’s sake, not danger’s.
This is for how it sounds
not for how much you mean to me.
which is not that much, after all, after this.
it was cold, it was morning, you were speaking
feeling not much further
than when you were next to me.
I want to speak with necessary directness,
I want to obliterate with honesty.
You are not the bigger things
I should be concerned with.
If I told you I was feeling less like myself
than I ever had before, what would you say?
There was a tunnel I yelled into, waiting for an echo,
wanting it to sound like you.
You are uncomfortable.
I am doing this right.
The last time I fucked him,
I imagined it was your body pressing into mine,
I mouthed your name, staring at the wall,
into his closed eyes, wishing it was your hands
clasped around my neck.
When he pulls my body in,
i know I have to leave.
But this was not for you,
you need to know that.
This was not for you.
You will remember how she told him:
you are playing with fire,
i think you know this—-
you will assume it is about you.
and you will wish you were that important,
that necessary, that life-threatening.
You’re not fire. You’re barely lit.
You’ve been long extinguished.
And he has never played with you,
all of those misplaced fantasies,
waking up and stretching toward his slight body,
wondering how yours would look next to it,
worry it will seem bigger than it is, worry
you will feel larger than you are,
you will not expect to feel so small.
Everything that will never happen.
so magnificent and gorgeous,
so inconsequential and insignificant.
I am the worst at updating this! In my defense, I’ve been writing mostly non-fiction. Here’s a new poem.
You talk about religion and I
am thinking about your body.
It is slight, but you are magnificent,
I feel so much bigger than i want to be.
At night, wishing my hands were yours,
At night, wishing I could dream differently.
More concretely, less abstractly.
That is to say:
I am a lake and your laughter makes ripples,
when you say my name there are waves.
I am a lake but there is a small hole,
a black, sinking crater.
and always dangerous.
My god, for once,
I am trying to not think in metaphors.
The childhood scar on your forehead
you said no one had noticed before.
the darkness on your breath,
it is cold.
you are walking to my door,
it is cold.
your face lit by a cigarette,
i am barefoot,
it is cold.
and I can’t stop wanting you.
last year i named you bare-boned winter,
one with no snow, one that is still too cold
but there is only frost on thin, brown trees
and now i call you summer-time drought,
gray grass, drying out.
dear, just imagine that we are spiders.
sixteen legs together,
breaking and then re-growing.
getting stomped on,
becoming whole again.
or maybe that’s jellyfish.
imagine we can regrow organs.
and that each time my heart feels like bursting
i can let it,
it will grow back again.
and despite our translucent skin
these veins are strong
we are both more resilient
and so much more dangerous
than we appear.