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.

to process

to process the grief
sometimes i need to let my fingers
my eyes
do the talking, instead of my mouth
which fumbles for vocabulary and spills
out something i’m still not sure about

i need to water myself like a jade plant
and perk up, greener than before

i need to hold myself tightly
and never let go, trusting
that i will always be here

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, Mom
How gently you held me to your chest
The hours 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 steps
Trips to Safeway for 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
Spent nights crawling out my window to
Lie to you
Thinking I wanted to die
So I refused you
And everything you offered

And I’m sorry, Mom
When I was younger, I didn’t know
Your love is vast like the ocean
Your love still sheds light in early hours
Your love comes back like the tide on the shore
Your love is an unmoving mountain I tried to destroy
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, Mom
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.

Snowy Morning/For Emily

The snow falling this morning reminds me of you
Tree limbs so crisp and the world is new

I sit at my window, watching the street
To reminisce and envision the next time we meet

My heart knows I likely won’t see you again
So my imagination must fill that void in

Are you building a snowman, or tunneling deep
To a whole different world where wild wolves sleep?

Are you sipping hot cocoa and playing a game
Of witches and fairies and dragons to tame?

Are you running through snowdrifts, wild and free
Knowing all of the good things you’ll be?

I sit at my window, not crying, not really
Recalling the serious times and the silly

Thinking back to our jokes, our games, and our smiles
The frustration and anger every once in a while

When you love someone, see, each memory sticks
So you carry them always in your bag of tricks

And when I start to miss you, I’ll think of those days
We acted like sloths creeping down the hallways

The students and teachers all looked so confused
When we said, “We’re just slothing around, how ‘bout you?”

I wish you goodbye as snow creates a fresh place
And hope wherever you are, you’re smiling and safe

Resolved

Why did you leave me that night
terrified, all alone in that big house
sloppy and stumbling and then throwing up
and not remembering and chewing pills
and taking long gulps of gin and vodka, why
did you leave, how could you?

And when she asked, “Resolved?”
I said yes.
And she marked it down on the chart then
said, as an afterthought
“I guess those things are never really resolved though.”

Salt

I salt our toast,
spread avocado thick and ripe.
I worry the drive to the coast will strain
this friendship
so we stop in the fog
to catch salt in our lashes.

The coast of my bed drops off
into thick fog. I lash our friendship
to the bow, ride through the night.
We strain to spy land
or taste something other than salt.

Fog seeps through the curtains,
invades the coast, thickens in our lungs.
A friendship under strain; I lash out.
You are salt in my wounds.

This friendship is thick with salt.
I strain to leave the coast, but
the fog has lashed me down.

The Gamble of DNA

Thumbing through an album of my childhood,
I am caught by the urge to cradle a child
in my arms, wild-haired and scarlet-cheeked.

I want not my former self, but an output of my DNA;
a genetic product of the traits I wish to express:
the subdued artistic sensibility,
neat gleaming rows of teeth,
a curious athletic vigor, intelligence.

I list the qualities I would do away with:
dark unending moods, panicking on plane rides,
the tendency towards alcoholism,
nocturnal jaw-grinding, and skin cancer.

Did too my parents ponder which features I might
inherit or escape, as embryo me swelled and matured?
No, for I was a surprise, a niggling itch,
and then a heart-stopping realization.

Each bleached photo of my youth reminds me
a child is a lottery ticket, a gamble
revealed over the years
as their silvery surface is slowly scratched away.