dirty

chai tea burns my palms as i wait
for the sun to break the morning chill
i light sandalwood incense, one stick after another
as if i am a chain-smoker
funneling my craving into this cane of resin
and i am hoping the spirals of smoke and
harsh words and scalding water
scour me inside-out, scrub me raw
from the bad things i have done and continue to do
because i do want to live
but there must be mud and mold and tangles of plaque
growing inside my chest and skull
for i talk about feeling dirty and
not knowing how to clean
to forgive myself

Rusty Poem

It’s been a while since I wrote.
It’s been a while since I felt safe in this body,
and curled into my thoughts for a rest,
without learning each breath by rote.

It’s been a month since Hell grabbed me by the ankle.
I was laid out on a hospital table.
When the man asked me what happened I couldn’t recall,
but my body tells the tale when it’s able.

This body shows the story I wrote.
I did it to myself. I put the pen to skin and it broke;
The Hell, I wrote into my fable.

no reason

it is no one’s business what i do to my body
with my body
or with knives
if smothering my wrists in bruises keeps me alive

how many times will the hospital take me in?

my sister is on another continent
humming with jungle creatures
and i am tempted to go to sleep in the snow
they say the body feels warm again
at the end of hypothermia

please don’t ask why
i hate trying to explain that i’m sad for
no reason
some things can’t be explained
there’s no reason

one best friend is in portland
one best friend is on another continent
buzzing with rickshaws, i guess
i am tempted to fall asleep in a bottle of wine
they say you feel very tired
in the final stage of cirrhosis

Sixteen

Mom always wanting to know
are those new? And where
did you get those pants, where are you
going tonight, when will you be back,
what did you two do and how is she and
have you dealt with what we discussed?

Mom always watching, me stepping
on eggshells all over the house.
Me creeping on tiptoe midday. Me
disappearing into my room where
I stashed the champagne.
With nothing to celebrate
I toast to blurriness.
I am sixteen.

Mom always nice, but not nice.
Mom comforting, staying up with me.
Mom slapping, brushing me off, Mom
with sharp blades in her voice.
Dad leaving the room, leaving, leaving.
Me asking for love and shrinking.

Me alone in my room.
Me in bed swallowing aspirin after aspirin.
I just turned sixteen, today. Me alone in bed.

Hospital Bed

In the ER, the lights are always on
and despite it all, the nurses laugh
amongst themselves. I am sobbing
without sound, as I have been all day,
to rinse the pain out of my skull.

Taylor drains some blood from my arm.
They say the curtains must stay open,
so they can see in. I know I am selfish
because I will not go back to school.
At home the unfinished books have been
crowding my space.

My friends aren’t here with me,
so they will never know. I wonder
how long I have left.

Ache

I don’t feel like there is something beautiful
inside me trying to get out.
It’s not as if there’s a monarch
lodged in my throat, or a line of rubies set
beneath my breastbone.

It’s more like I have an ache, deep,
near my spinal cord, or maybe my kidneys,
and I have to stretch and twist and rub at it
like an old man does his arthritic knuckles.

Aspirin is useless for that type of pain,
the kind that sometimes wakes you right before dawn
or stabs you square in the gut
when you’re chatting on the sidewalk with friends
and suddenly a person walks by with their head down,
tilted, a private smile on their face
and you fall in love for just a moment.

I write to that spot.
My poems address the ache, press into it a little
and release, let the flesh bounce back into place.
It helps, you know. It helps in the way
you tell a child to turn off his lamp
specifically because he’s afraid of the dark.

Just a Dream

I dreamt of you last night
and awoke today with the crashing
waves of anger turning me white-hot
Your words still spilling
from that deep charred place
Me bitter like black coffee,
rousing myself heavy from bed
jaw sore from grinding, gnashing

Unsure if I want to dissolve
or combust; slip back to sleep
or sprint to the moon

It’s just a dream, I have to breathe
I have to remember
and let go
and stop
hoping
you’ll
call

Trapped

I try to reach across the gear shift to grasp your hand
to show you it’s all going to be okay,
to tell you I love you, I care.
I want to hold you.

But I remain frozen and numb, my eyes glued to the train
clanging past in a blur. Fingers scratching circles
on the steering wheel with bitten fingernails.
My mouth stays shut.

I pretend I am a normal girl on this blue sunny day.
The words I should say run laps in my head.
Sadness is welling up in my stomach, for when you leave.
My eyes still won’t meet yours.

You open the door of the car as it’s still moving.

Later.

I watch your tousled hair and black jacket get smaller and smaller.
Soon the emotions will fill me up.

Later.

Hints

I drop them, breadcrumbs
as I trudge through the dark forest
Find me, Save me
Stolen away by mice
Trampled by leather boots
because my friends are looking at their phones

I throw them, handfuls
Save me, Help me
They fidget at the discomfort
of crumbs down their shirt, loosen the collars
What a nuisance

I am not hinting anymore
Breadcrumbs pour from my sleeves
Eyes dripping in pain
Everyone walking
looks away