Sylvia

I am a collection of nightmares
in strangers’ beds
I am brittle bones pooling
at my feet
I am a paperback spine
bent backwards

(I am,
I am, 
I am)

I think I understand why Sylvia Plath
stuck her head inside an oven

there are voices in mine I’d like
to set on fire

and

There are parts of me
that still think love is a curled fist

And I am a burning city 
I am a thin red line
wrist kiss to kitchen knife
I am caution tape wallpaper
peeling away at the edges

(I am,
I am, 
I am)

I once sat in a room with death for 19 days straight
we talked about the butcher knife, and the box cutter, 
and also the gun
and the kerosene 
and my eyes burned until they ran dry
but I didn’t blink
And neither did death
and I’m not sure who won
and I’m not sure it’s over

But I am still here

(I am,
I am,
I am)

It’s unsettling how often
I let myself settle,

Like dust

For less than I deserve

The human heart 
is an animal of its own, 
A pulsing beast
of blood and flesh.

Yours,
a constant reminder
that storms 
are named after people

Mine,
the reason that ribs
are cages

stop lusting after the pulse of a man who doesn’t even worry when he hears you’ve been crushed under the pressures of living.

new years things and stuff

2013 hit me like a goddamn freight train. A head-on collision. Tires skidding, glass shattering, metal crushing. Silence. Then sirens. The noise never left for long, but the silence was just as deafening. 

2013 was a roller coaster. The kind where even before the climb you could already feel the flip in your stomach from the fall. The kind that was mostly fall, anyway.

There were things that stuck with me through the ups and the downs and people who didn’t. There was pain I couldn’t shake on the sharp turns. 

2013 was zero to sixty in a crowded room. 

There is no contrivedly uplifting moral to this past year. I wish I could summarize what I’ve learned in some sweet little catch-phrase, but I can’t. Because the thing is that all those stupid cliches are bullshit.

"When life gives you lemons, make lemonade". Fuck that noise. Make noise. Throw fits. You don’t have to make the best of a bad situation. Chug a bottle of vodka in thirty minutes then call your best friend over to help you puke. You’ll maybe feel better in the morning. But you’ll probably feel like shit, and that’s okay too. Sit in the shower and cry. Scream. When life gives you lemons, fuck shit up. Also, it’s all fucking lemons. First kisses will always harden. Every successful marriage will always end with one person watching the other die. There is enough food on this planet to feed every person, but not enough humanity to spread it around. There is not enough time to read all the books you will want to, or to listen to all the albums worth listening to. You will run out of chances to hug your mother. It’s all goddamn lemons. Throw a fit about it. Fuck shit up. Hug your mother.

"Laughter is the best medicine". No it’s not. Laughing about your problems is stupid and you will have more problems because of it. Get help. Do not be ashamed. Everybody needs help sometimes. 

"Ignorance is[n’t] bliss". "Love is [occasionally but not always and really not even all that frequently] blind." "What doesn’t kill you makes you[r drinks] stronger".

It’s all bullshit. Unadulterated bullshit.

I am almost twenty years old and I have absolutely no idea who I am or what the fuck I want and that scares the shit out of me. This past year shook up everything I though I knew, chewed me up, and spit me out. I don’t know which way is up or where the ground is. And I sure as fuck don’t know how to take care of myself.

When my mom told us about her cancer, the room got really still. The air stirred quietly and we dared not disturb it. She was eerily content, spewing off shit about how “everybody is going to die, but not everybody knows how” and how “miracles do happen” and she “think[s] [she’ll] be okay”. Bullshit to it all. 

She is not going to be okay. 

"Life goes on". Bullshit. I don’t know why people pretend it’s not going to end. it will, it’s just a matter of when. My mother probably has incurable cancer. My grandmother is on hospice, dying of infection. I lost a friend to heroin-induced suicide. The brevity of our existence is not something we should ignore. Life goes on…for a bit, for some people, for now, for what? 

So I guess all I can give you is a two-part question: What would you do if you knew you were dying? How did you convince yourself that you’re not?

Nelson Mandela is Dead

Tonight, Nelson Mandela is dead
and I have a migraine

I am not sure what to be more upset about: 
the fact that my body is in pain
or that thousands of miles away
the heart of a man,
who I have never met,
has stopped beating.

One day,
my heart will stop, too.
His humanity is not much different
than mine,

only larger.

Tonight, Nelson Mandela is dead
and if someone were to ask me
what the bravest thing I’ve ever done was,

I wouldn’t have an answer.

But each of us only gets so many chances
to prove humanity
is more than the people behind you
ready to trample you when you fall

and each breath you take has to be
given back

somehow

There are bones in your body
that you will never see
but
Nothing would be the same 
without them

Nothing would be the same 
if you did not exist

Nelson Mandela is not breathing anymore,
his lungs laying silent beneath his ribcage,

never having held any more air
than mine do right now.

Tonight
Nelson Mandela is dead
and my head hurts

On both of my hands, I can
count the things I’ve done wrong.
The people I’ve left. The phone
calls that went unanswered.I 
might have a problem owning
up to things. Nobody ever 
really prepares you for how
difficult it is to be an adult. 
Nobody tells you how 
you’re supposed to stock your
bathroom with honey-almond
soap and scented candles.
How your refrigerator
must always be full and smell
like tangerines and mangoes. How
you will want to stay in your bed
more times than you will leave it. 
That nobody owes you anything.
I lose track track of time the way
my dad loses his cellphone- frequently,
unnoticed. Days, sometimes weeks,
lost, like shoes beneath a bed.
I leave things behind - bobby 
pins, an earring - on purpose. I 
think I just want someone to 
remember me.

When I Should Have Left You

When, after you realized the “goosebumps” 
on my upper thigh were actually lines of opened skin,
your face sunk and you slept on the couch

in the living room, leaving me to cry
alone on a bed that wasn’t mine.
When I realized you only wanted me

when your breath tasted like cheap beer.
When I realized being wanted is not
the same thing as being valued

you can want things, just to use them
and then trash them. Being wanted doesn’t mean shit.
When the way you kissed me changed

from being the passionate exchange of the
newly obsessed, excited about being so 
close to each others faces, to something

like a text you return so as not to seem rude.
When you touched me the way a cat 
plays with a mouse

long after it is dead.

Self-Portrait at Nineteen

I scrounge for change in the cracks 
of my sofa, carry my travel mug 
to class because it’s cheaper

I start books but do not finish them,
spend money I do not have, 
Hum songs that have no words

My friend talks to me about God,
wants me to believe, but 
I do not have that kind of faith

I only believe in easy things
like red lipstick, and coffee before noon, 
and writing essays in pen

I sleep too late on weekends, 
and don’t floss as often as I should,
I let go of things just to hear them break

I write notes in French,
etch the date in the top right corner,
scribble poetry onto dirty napkins

I too often find home for the night
in someone else’s bed, I make it a point
to forget my earrings or a bracelet

I remember how your mother 
smiled a little too hard when she 
saw me last

Being sad makes me thirsty,
so I drink two glasses of water
and take an aspirin

I do not grow flowers here
and I have not yet learned the 
strength it takes to mend myself

For the first boy I ever loved,
I would have driven 7 hours
through nothing but corn fields
just to crawl into his arms
and then weep the whole ride home
I’d have done anything to feel his heat 
just one more time
Thinking, if I could just wake up next to his voice
maybe I wouldn’t be so afraid of mornings
He was laughter that couldn’t be bottled,
paint I couldn’t stop painting with
I have his portrait framed on my wrists
He is still the last person I’ve kissed

The second boy was just a distraction
the dull roar of a television
in front of puffy eyes and tissue boxes
he kissed at my neck like puppy
and I did nothing
I taste just as good when I’m silent

The third just happened out of habit,
became where I went when the lights turned off,
when I’d had a bad night, when I’d had too much to drink,
when I had nothing left to say
His hands were callused desperation,
I unraveled in his tired fists
I was less pretty when he opened his eyes
When he left me, I wasn’t sure I was sad
I cried anyway
Girls who look like me are supposed to cry 
over boys who look like him

The fourth boy was concrete
He was sturdy, he was strong
He held me harder the more I squirmed
It is the nature of stone to be satisfied
It is the nature of water to want to be somewhere else

I used to gamble my bones for luck
and I’ve never had the audacity before now to wait for a heart
but you said sleep on it
so I curled up on your chest and learned patience
The morning can be so mortal
and you often have bad dreams, but
I would kiss the fright from your voice if you would let me
but that’s your choice

the last time I saw you
you were just as beautiful as the first

I sat on your bed,
and I’m not sure if you we’re smiling 
at some joke you heard earlier that day
or me
but I’ll take what I can get from you.

And you are still the last person
I’ve kissed

Dressed solely in each others palm prints
and tequila
I will kiss your boxcar of a tongue
Taste all the train wrecks still left on your lips
You are the best accident I’ve ever been in
But an accident none the less
We’ve made such a mess with these costumes we call skin
and there are few things that have ever 
stung me like you 

But we
are so much less important than the things inside of us
and everything is there in your chest

Oh I know and I know and I know
It’s still you
It’s always been you

There are cracks that run along the back of my neck
from the bomb shelter that hangs above it
And I can’t stop thinking about kitchen knives
and cutlery
and yes,
my back is a cutting board,
a display case,
a 1am culinary informercial
hello, 
hi,
yes,
I hang my heart around my neck
so it’s easier for me to pick up the pieces
and yes,
listen,
each time I sew myself back together
there are a few more parts 
that don’t fit just right
and I cannot fix Frankenstein’s mistakes
and I can only apologize so much
when you look at me
do you see your creation
when you look in the mirror
do you see everything you’ve left behind
like me
our past is not a cemetery
you cannot just start digging
riddle me this
was it easier for you to forget where you buried me
or to dig me back up again 
hello,
yes,
I realize this is a little strange
and we are not supposed to talk about these things
but wounds won’t heal unless you bandage them properly
and I have to get this out,
I need you to know,
I am getting past this
and my heart is a glow stick
bright from being broken
and I’m sorry at times
I’ve treated you like a bomb shelter
Driven away with a mushroom cloud
But I’m not past this yet
We can’t avoid an accident after a crash,
we can’t talk with a mouthful of eggshells,
I need to tell you
that I can’t tell the difference between
cupid’s arrow
and a kitchen knife
anymore
And my neck isn’t strong enough 
to support you leaving again