are so much more
than open ones.
Odd or familiar,
cherished or abandoned,
they lead everywhere
all at once.
collapse like dominos
into singularity with
the twist of a knob.
What am I afraid of?
Flowers pressed to paper
lose the vibrancy
Let me exist in the
moments between moments
in the space between
thought and action.
Let me persist
forever in the breath
before the door begins
This is the poem I can't write.
I've never hit the backspace so many times,
never scribbled out so many lines. This is the
ball of yarn I'm not sure I'll ever untangle.
The knot I've left unbrushed since childhood,
but now it's so matted, it breaks all my
scissors and combs. Look at me hiding behind
metaphors because I'm afraid I'll cut my fingers
on the point. Because the point is that I use
other women to determine my self-worth.
That I'm never sure if I'm good enough
unless I'm the best and there is always
someone better isn't there?
That another women's success feels like
a personal attack, and shit I don't want to talk
about this but I think we need to talk about this,
because every time I see a provocative woman
I hate myself, and I hate her a little bit too.
And I get the feeling I'm not the only one who
uses an outdated rubric to determine their
grade. The only one who needs a grade to
feel they have value. God I want to scrub this
off so hard that it stings. This inky stain
ignored for so long it's become a tattoo
so ugly I'd rather pretend it's a birthmark.
Like envy was the sin assigned to me by God.
Some days I look in the mirror and think I'm
beautiful, not despite, not in comparison to.
Just truth. And then I hear an old coworker
telling me the hottest women are the ones who
don't know it. A chorus of lamentation about
my fat thighs. All the careful reminders that
boys will jump when offered something better.
And there's always something better isn't there?
Now I've taken you down to the bottom
of the well. This is where the echoes live,
the place where I point fingers at corpses.
Where I use other women's bodies as
stepping stones to try to escape.
Because we all want to escape.
But this isn't a birthmark.
And I don't believe in sin.
Or unsolvable problems.
So why the hell do I believe that anyone
could be better? Or worse?
And I think I'm scared to write because I don't
know how it ends. I wish I knew how to
translate thought into feeling.
To transfigure conviction into belief.
But I don't.
We should have said goodbye,
but "I'll see you soon"
inflates the hours like balloons
and softens our fall.
I think we all know
the movies are a lie:
goodbye is taboo
for all but happy endings.
So we just pretend
we'll see each other again,
and even on a deathbed
we'll say goodbye
without the punctuation
just in case.
Just in case.
Can you hear it too?
The phantom ringing of a phone
we set to silent?
Weren't we taught that
unlocked doors are dangerous?
But then again,
what hope isn't?
Because I’ve never enjoyed a meal that wasn’t shared.
Because I feel lighter without shedding a pound.
Because all of my heroes are storytellers and if I am to meet them, I would have it on even ground.
Because it’s the safest kind of revenge.
Because taking your clothes off in public is illegal.
Because I fall in love with half a dozen strangers every time I leave the house.
Because every kitchen glimpsed through a well-lit window has a table I’ll never sit at.
Because no one tells me secrets anymore.
Because I am too greedy to live just one life.
Because my skin fits so poorly that I find my insides spilling out of my mouth.
Because right now I am a whisper inside your skull.
Because I like the feeling of my fingers tangled in your heartstrings.
Because I can make your emotions dance like marionettes.
Because I want attention.
Because it’s the only way I know how to do good while still feeling bad.
Because I am hungry,
Because writing is the power to turn that black hole into a sun.
Because if that isn’t magic, I don’t know what is.
33 twirls around the cosmic ballroom
and still I don't know how to dance
feet constantly tripping
dress ragged and ripping
each spin stripping me down
to newborn nakedness
and still the tempo increases
frantic intervals of familiar scenery
like a word repeated to nonsense
I will never understand how loss
can weigh more than gain
but my muscles' tired complaints
assure me that this is true
so let me lay my head down
on your shoulder while I can
and maybe this time around
we can close our ears to the world
let our heartbeats set the measure
and dance something new
I started picking at the lock again
the one I know I'm not supposed to pick
the one I try to forget exists
until I find my fingers bloody
victims of the tic
just need to hear the mechanism click
but the keyhole always shifts
one moment a beckoning silhouette
of an evening off from the kids
flickers into likes and follows
blink and it's parental approval
followed by a dick
and then just as quick
we're back to stranger's clicks
and maybe a sugar fix
or the eyes of the friend I haven't
seen in years but I keep dreaming
thinks of me and oops we're back
to dicks and now skinny thighs
but nothing fits
and yes I've tried the trick
with the credit card
and one with knives
and I'm afraid to go down that road
again and so I'll carve myself a key
and I know it will not work but
at least the whittling keeps my fingers
from picking what can't be picked
The United States Supreme Court just overturned
Roe v Wade and people are mourning their own
bodies while others celebrate. The only sense I can
make is that line: "you're beating with a book everyone
the book told you to love," but then I remember that
Jesse Lacey groomed two teenage girls and I remember
that we were probably the same age when my best friend
was groomed by her high school internship supervisor and
she told me he was just so lonely and his wife was cheating
on him until she found out he had kids and maybe the age
gap was more canyon than creek. And then I remember
our religion group project on abortion when I looked my
former-preacher-now-teacher in the eye and asked him
if he was sure it was always wrong. Read him the article
I found about the little nine-year old girl forced to carry
the spawn of incest. Read him the words she said when
asked how she felt about having a baby:
"Will I have to share my toys?"
He told me it would still be a sin.
He slashed our final grade and any tenuous thread
I believed connected faith and morality. It would
take another year before I would learn that my body
produced natural lubricant when sexually aroused,
probably another three before I learned what a clitoris
was, five more before realizing it's normal for women
to feel sexually aroused. I learned all of these things
in bedrooms from nice boys who knew more about
my body than I did and what if they hadn't been nice?
Would I even know how to judge? Do I now? And all
I can think is how much my body has had to rely on
the niceness of men when my daughter asks me:
"What are you thinking about?" I'm thinking thank god
you live in a country with the right to abortion (for now).
A country with decent sex-ed. Thank god your daddy
is nice. Thank god you were born to a family who will
teach you so you don't have to rely on the capricious
charity of men. But then I remember that I don't owe my
gratitude to a deity who can drown his misbehaving children
and somehow retain the right to condemn a person for
deciding not to have them in the first place. Instead
I give her the sharpest weapon I have.
Instead, I give her the truth.
I got a case of the empties
and no I don't mean a box
of two dozen bottles
smelling of stale beer
waiting to be returned
to be filled with fresh beer
or shattered and melted
forged into shiny new bottles
maybe crafted to carry
I mean the single empty bottle
forgotten in the basement
or under the patio
or by the creek behind your house
I mean the case of twenty-three
waiting by the door
until it's full enough to move on
I mean the case of eleven also
waiting because it was scavenged
to add up to twenty-four
I mean the case of five
case after case after case
dangerously rattling for a gap
that keeps opening up
until you finally go digging
in the basement
under the patio
by the creek
but all you find are the bottles
in old photos of your
dead grandparents and
the friends you never see
and you can't recycle a memory
so you keep searching through
the places you used to
and nothing ever gets filled
or broken down into anything
that can carry something new
I got a case of the empties
a glass-sharp rattle
begging to move on
while I wait inside the door
in case that single bottle
decides to show up
Do you recall the moment
you were introduced to the ladder?
Maybe you were sat on the ground,
forced to squint against the sun
while they pointed out some lofty goal.
Or maybe you were placed on a rung,
lifted by loving arms while you judged
the distance you'd have to fall
if you took just one wrong step.
No wonder you want to defend it,
all the hours you climbed and fretted,
the blistered hands from grasping
and lifting, bruised shins from slipping.
No wonder your fingers instinctively curl
when I tell you: that ladder never existed.
No wonder you cling so tightly that your nails
press false woodgrain into your flesh
until that imaginary position is as
identifying as your own handprint.
If only you'd look around you'd see
those cuts and scrapes weren't in vain;
it's no shame to trip on the uneven ground,
and so much easier to get up again.
Without the dizzying vertigo of ascent
you'll see how far you've come compared
not to everyone walking by your side,
but to that unique place you started from.
It's that time of year again
to stash away the modesty
and go digging through the
neatly (ha!) folded t-shirts,
tank tops, and shorts.
One by one I extract them,
slide each sundress down the line,
but this year I cannot find
that confidence I swear I had
last year, although I know
it must be here somewhere.
Ah! There it is, sidled next
to that one-piece bathing suit.
Too bad it seems that neither fits
quite the way I remember.
Like stubborn children, my thighs
cling at the fabric, begging:
"Please don't let us go."
And though I promise: "You'll do fine,"
I cant help but second guess,
maybe, it'd be best if we just hide
here inside these jeans a little longer.