Morning

Ants were moving over their red sand nest
like satellites rearranging amongst the constellations,
orbiting the opening that led
to a damp dark infinite nest of mazes.
The smell of rot wafted across the yard,
something like the stench of decomposing flesh
or wet soil unearthed into the sunlight for the first time.
It was like the baking of clay
with seaweed and ocean life hardening inside.
The sun was a sedative bearing down on her,
heating the backs of necks and
lulling all into a state of apathetic bliss.
She watched the morning unfold
in the crabgrass: the grasshoppers blinking
in and out of sight; the willow branches drifting
like cheery, lazy pennants; swallows free-falling
to the ground in graceful undulations.

Burning

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It was amazing that I had saved the suicide notes for so long; as if someday I might need them again.
Personalized: to my boyfriend, my mother, my sister, the world.
I couldn’t bear to read them. My script was neat and blocky like a child’s.
The house was quiet and empty, fake adobe, sand-colored.
The trees lining the yard reminded me of other places I’d been. I felt safe.

I sat in the gravel next to the deck and gripped a lighter in the wind. I needed to make the papers disappear. The sun sank behind the cottonwood and piñon behind me, dimming the evening’s light and causing goose bumps to rise along my calves and forearms.

The flame flashed and danced below the first paper. Once the fire caught, it spread quickly, sending off surprisingly tall and scalding flames. I wasn’t thinking about what the letters contained; what lies I had been telling myself back then.

I was thinking that everyone has a future. There would be a friend’s marriage, an illness, a sunset, new sneakers, a birthday – something yet to occur. I was thinking about the cup of coffee I would have the next morning, with half and half in a handmade ceramic mug.

The papers crumbled into black-and-white ashes that writhed in the heat.

Were the neighbors watching, wondering what this girl outside was doing, crouching in the gravel with a lighter? For a second I thought I smelled flesh burning beneath the smoke.

We are all dying, but let it be unplanned. Let our regrets sink into the earth like ashes. Let us carry on as if nothing bad will happen.

5 more minutes

Partway thru and
I begin to grit my teeth into the pain
I can take 5 more minutes
3 more
1 more

It’s not the same
He’s not the same
I don’t have to sacrifice myself
Or bite my tongue
He loves me
He will listen
And it hurts

All the way thru and
My fingers come back red
He looks pale
That’s a lot of blood
I feel grim and all-knowing
You’ve never had a period

He keeps asking
Are you okay
I keep replying yes
Getting ready to walk home
It is too much to explain

This blood is nothing
That is okay
What is not is my soul
Which now bleeds for the past
Which will be sore tomorrow
And bitter, and vengeful
Holding grudges against
The motions of a long-ago person
I feel in your body

I Didn’t Know Your Love

I didn’t know, Mother
How gently you held me to your chest
The hours you invested in my nourishment
The nights you were the only one awake with me
The days you forfeited to make me
A little bit of a better person
Years slipped by like baby breaths
Trips to Safeway for Saltines and licorice
At every piano recital and gymnastics meet
Every haircut, heartbreak, and injury

The love you poured into me and you got nothing
The love you poured around me when I closed myself up
As I dug at my arms with a switchblade and
Wrote notes on how to tie a noose and
Pushed away my birthday cake and
Shut myself in my room to get high
And spent nights crawling out my window and
Lying to you
Thinking I wanted to die
So I refused you
And everything
You offered

And I’m sorry, Mother
When I was younger, I didn’t know
Your love is vast like an ocean
Your love sheds light in the earliest hours
Your love comes back like the tide on the shore
Your love is an unmoving mountain I tried to climb
Your love is the sun I see each morning and forget to acknowledge
And I’m sorry it took me so long to discover
When I was younger, Mother
I didn’t know

Fickle Heart

My fickle heart, a poison apple
I dare not hand away
Lodged inside me like a sickness
I can’t wash down the drain
I want to cleanse myself of thoughts
Of you, your touch
How I imagine your breath to tickle
Hot on my bare neck
My greedy fingertips, going after
The poison apple every time
And I can never settle down
Never be satisfied
Cheating in my genes
Chasing in my design
Conquering and scoring
And losing every time

Going into Surgery

The nurse inserts a needle under my skin
and I allow IV fluid into me. They warmed it.
Taped tubes fast to my bony arm.
He squeezes my hand to say, you will be okay.
I wrote my will at home, just in case.
Machines bleep and I sigh. Mostly it is quiet,
this early in the morning on the ward.
We snap a picture of me looking bleak.
Nurse returns, I am leaving now for the OR
in a squeaking gurney. She allows one last kiss.
Nurse and I chat as the ceiling slides past.
It’s just like sleeping, she says. I tell her
I haven’t slept well in a week; I might nod
into the next needle. You’ll feel it soon.
I wait for a rest and a dream.

20 minutes

Let’s split up.
She says it without malice or force,
and the words fall like
an act of kindness.

Warmth drains from his cheeks
into the wind; the red rock surrounding them
absorbs the dying light. His heart
a painful fist.

Then she
is handing him
the keys to the Honda
and saying 20 minutes,
and tilting her head in question

Air finds his lungs,
expand, contract
oxygen, CO2
in, out
rhythmic footfalls like a pulse
rinse the panic from his veins
nodding away the fear
20 minutes