Dawn sun streaks through the blinds and I would rather be sleeping
But I am reading, sipping echinacea lemon tea with honey
And remembering when I was ill as a child, terrified of the flu
I prayed Mom would stay home with me because
When I was sick she would be there there. And if she wasn’t
All I had to do was get a little sicker. I could call her
And she would let me watch TV on weekdays in a sleeping bag
While she ran to the store for popsicles and Saltines
Knowing she would return to pore over paperwork at the table
Or chat with her sister on the phone, hushing Kari’s sick
Checking on me when I didn’t get out of bed
One time she was still at work when I threw up and I cleaned
My own vomit off the sink. And cried because I wanted her there
To sit on the edge of my bed and smooth my hair
When she got home she said You didn’t have to do that, but I did
And I sank into her arms because breathing finally came easy again
Today I lie in a sleeping bag alone, writing poems and papers
Today I am an adult, taking care of myself
And missing my mother
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
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
People see my body and stare.
Then look away,
Drawn towards me. They want to envelop me,
cover me, save me, protect me.
Shelter me like a roof. Catch the raindrops
from hitting my face.
My face is open to pain.
My face is a book of betrayal.
My face was painted with dying hope.
I am in love with being loved.
Having love forced on me- making love-
of having it shoved in me, twisted and jabbed
and my voice smothered and stifled,
hands ensnared, throat crushed.
Am I in love with this?
Drawn towards me, they want to envelop me,
smother me, wreck me, infect me.
Scatter me like ashes, spread me thin in a windstorm
so my body will never be connected
They tell me I am in love with being broken.
They stare, and they know my body is theirs.
It has never been mine.
There are cracks where past lovers shine through.
We will do that for you
so they tell me.
I called you.
A month ago
I left you a voicemail, cordial
with a tinge of plaintive.
Could you tell?
You were drifting on the Hudson,
teaching schoolchildren about tides
or sailing or algae.
Were you cold there, at night?
I think of you when I can’t sleep,
and want to apologize
for pointing that knife at you
when we were kids.
Being a kid
doesn’t excuse that.
I am also sorry
for using my hands and words on you,
or not using them at all.
My silence might have been
the most painful tool.
Tomorrow I fly away
to another home, missing you
We’ll share the sky,
gazing at the same fleecy clouds
and patchwork fields,
absorbed in our own respective storylines.
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.
to process the grief
sometimes i need to let my fingers
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
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.