i wrote these a few months ago. the second one (except for the final tercet) are in truly standard sestina form, in that every line is 6 syllables. the first one has the proper sestina format, but i was lenient with syllables.
We plant seeds in the center, reminds me of my blood on their hands, even now it follows
patterned drops, follows an elliptical path; we swallow seeds feebly now from the soil of our centers and the stomachs bleed; I’m reminded
of days before all of this—shall I remind you of the time we followed the man to his forest, a trail of blood and seeds led us dead-center; now
we bury time there. Now, as you know (I don’t need to remind), our humble centers bloom bundles of nerves and fibers, we follow wayward routes, seeding blood,
the crops unearthed. His blood and mine now contained in these seeds, which you swallow to remind the body to follow our centers’
ache, our centers ask for more blood, more…we’ve followed (now) for a timeless stretch, an invisible sense—I shall remind all my seeds
when they grow old; the seeds will unveil blood at his intricate center…now, I must remind one: never follow.
And the last time your lips wept, your lips touched my forehead just after you said, “I’m sorry.” Remember, we snuck on the roof, under dense Midwest dark, tiny flecks alight, (I’ve a habit of wandering away
with boys who’ll offer escape), way out in endless time, your lips spoke to space, to the light, I tried to wrap my head, which always aches, around and under everything we’ve ever been. I’m sorry,
but I’ve already seen…I’m sorry I was here before, far away and above, on a rooftop, under voyeuristic moon; its face, its lips bending down to touch my head, imbedding me blindly with distant light.
And the time when morning light slid in, like a spy, sorry for the intrusion—awake, my head waling and lamenting, a long way from home—you’d woken, your lips skimmed, limping from someplace else, under
time; I was lucidly asleep under the weight of his ghost (light scours us clean). You are sorry for him, for the humble ways rooftops cave in, for my head,
which always pulses, pounds…my head stores you and him, tucked away from everything we’ll ever be. Light shines blind; I must say Sorry for ever touching your sad lips.
And, by the way, you stung my head with those lips, under the light of him…the death of him too; I am sorry for it all.
11:34pm: it's about to get real fucking personal in here...
When I think of you, I remember your shapeless shoes and your way of laughing over everybody else and the largeness of your hands cupping my hip bones under covers (where we hid from sight) and the night we snuck into your moldy basement, while everyone else was asleep upstairs, and how you washed my scent off of you after 4 am, and how I banged on your window, brought your cat through the backdoor (for another excuse to say goodbye)… and I remember your funny sweaters and the poetry, on yellow lined paper, you’d scatter throughout the house and the way you’d throw that cat against a mattress to watch it bounce off, and how you’d bang a broken piano or make music with kitchen utensils or pound words onto typewriter paper or hang cigarettes from soda cans with rubber-bands… and you taught me jokes, but I forget how they go, and we pinkie-swore the first night we met, that night you showed me card tricks and laughed as I kissed some other boy on the filthy couch… and I wasn’t yours, (you made me yours), you came into my room with magic sunglasses and those large hands, large laughs, large smiles touched and tickled, and I couldn’t say no and I told you a bedtime story about a dinosaur flying into clouds and finding a gas station, and this December, the whole lot of us, traveled eight hours via shitty van all the way to your mother’s house, where pictures of littler-you and younger brother decorated the walls, and limp “get well soon” balloons hung like death... you were there, invisible, done with the likes of us in this world… I remember, one night, you told me about a girl you’d fucked in a bathroom, and you’d always sneak me a special sort of glance with your girlfriend in your arms, and the night it all began, you’d let me wear your shoes, those scrappy things, as we strolled on damp roads to the roof of a building where we could fuck in front of the moon, and I remember thinking everyone could tell where we’d been from my messy hair… I was your cat, you petted me, I purred, you washed dishes in a skirt, and asked me to water your pet mushroom, said we were animals, instinctual, and that I think too much and I remember your tongue ring and how you’d put it to good use, and I remember sneaking into your sunroom with duct-taped windows and busted mattress, we were always in trouble with ourselves…. and the last night I saw you, you’d tried to score a batch of drugs for five bucks in Washington Square, kissed me, told a story about some other girl, hugged goodbye, lifted me like a doll (or a cat), and I always wished I could play ukulele, color outside the lines and speak without words (like you)… I remember, they watched as we shuffled single-file in the snow, following the leader as you whistled and swung a stick like a cane… we were at war with each other, our selves, our parallel paradox: I was yin and you were yang, I was moon and you the sun: and everything was drunk, disordered, ragamuffined and I took a photo of you sleeping... I remember the bracelet you’d wear that your girlfriend made, and the lighter you used, that I’d made, and I drew a picture for you when your rat died, after you’d sent her back to heaven, and I read your journals, found a poem about me called “Shameless,” wrote a story about you called “Animal Instinct,” and it’s too late to tell you I understand, I’ve figured you out… still, I envy every girl you ever loved, like the one you called monkey becaue time's been torn wide with your passing, a rift between then and here without indoor hammock, off kilter haircuts, balconies and chess, and I remember you lifted me, a bird on your shoulder, and dropped me hard onto my knees… I was one of many girls you tried to get drunk (tequila in polka-dot glass) and didn’t write songs for… and I didn’t travel to New Mexico or sip your mushroom tea, I didn’t strum music for your words, or dread my hair, but I was there, and no one can summarize or chronologize or conceptualize our messiness, our impossible romance all of the memories trapped like sand, there is no way to recall the background noise or reconnect the abstract inklings of whatever it was, whoever you wanted us to be.
3:19pm: one of many to come, i am sure.
the birds are making sad circles, overhead. your tattooed ouroboros is dead. i sit, distilling, on familiar pavement where you once stood tall. the morning's angled light cruely jokes, it hardly warms the senses. december already feels lonely without you.
these birds; they're not quite sure where to land...and i am caught between inner landscapes (your blanket, your breath) that diffuse, evaporate when given air. you, like this sky, had the bluest eyes. you, like these birds, the largest wingspan; for holding me.
they're shutting you up now, underground. and as your body hibernates against eternal cold, these birds don't know what to do, pecking at sidewalks where you once set foot, wearing sandals in winter. the sun doesn't shine nearly as bright as it should.
9:55pm: i'm at work. hmmmm.
you say, there's so much more buried down there than her bones, and i can picture you: nine years old with loose teeth and blue-blue eyes telling yourself, she's dead she's dead, while your blue faded to gray in the mirror's gaze, and your mother, my god-mother, fell into the floor and your father carried her body, like a corpse, to the bathroom, to the bedroom and your older brother and little sister, my cousins, camped outside the door and that was septepmber 4 and you knew, you knew they were all liars, and you saw how your father would turn to drinking, your mother to any perscription pill, your brother to california, your sister to tattoos and you would try anything that might stop your blue eyes from further fading.
8:02pm: from a good safe distance.
i wrote the first one sometime early July and just edited slightly. the second is a sestina (without the last 3 lines of a sestina) which i wrote in like june? july?
Washington Square Conversation
Today, I talked with this guy in Washington Square about circles, or rather spheres, though he pronounced them “spears,” well, he was thinking un-dimensionally talking ‘bout his travels through time and space, though every explanation he gave was some Euclidean geometry restrung.
And I tried to make a point, tried to cut it nice and clean; the delay of light, air’s molecules, non-existant atmosphere on moons; the earth neither in front nor back of any celestial thing because it floats everywhere.
And then, he said, he’d been through the sun: a needle piercing the surface’s silhouette, an orange glob, a fiery globe, I thought: a balloon (or noninvasive surgery), acupuncture, hairpins and yet, he never wanted to go back…
Embarrassed, I reasoned: he’s certainly dark, and certainly mad, and so I believed him for a second’s fleeting breath.
And then he jumped, shouting again about traveling the length of the universe in barely twenty-four hours…well anyways, I told him he wasn’t getting anything I’d said, and he called me defensive, sayin’ “I have five sisters, I know how women are!”
And what was the point, I wondered, really? The needle? The Sun? Heaven? Love? Or none of the above?
Time kept passing and I marveled at a child’s chalk drawings nearby….while the man rambled on, and on, and on.
When taking a walk, my kidney says: “Stop, look down – see the waterlogged worm on a tender leaf? Watch your step!”
For fear of stepping on asphalt-biology, during this walk – little-kid steps\ in giant-green shoes – my kidney says: “Take that tiny worm home; and about your own dilemmas – Stop!”
Without words, I stop my heart’s beat, step carefully over the worm and continue my walk; inching on asphalt, my kidney screams: “Don’t forget the leaf!”
For a lack of patience, assertion, or pain, I leaf through options: Stop, tell the kidney No!, Or baby-step backwards and walk to the worm.
What-so-ever this worm must think without words, his leaf shudders, his walk halts. He says: “Stop following me! Step onward, Bad Kidney.”
Well, for a bad kidney, my body still worms and steps… leaving the leaf; my voice speaks: “I’ve stopped, only to walk.”
12:06pm: she's so heavy, heavy.
i wrote this down one night a few weeks ago. here's to recopying and tweaking.
i can see what i saw then now through different eyes, same lenses, same sliver... still somewhat overdosed and un- apologetic for all of this fuss —
i couldn't walk straight, do you recall the left side of my brain battling the right? where they X-rayed and Catscaned and i fought them off with tingling hands and thighs, you carried me to the toilet carried me to the car, still
i can see where i was then now on higher ground, sounds of water, watching tiles refract and reflect me outstretched, the lines criss-crossed, how is this the same me?
same tiny chicken-scratch, same knuckles, same swollen gland, one defunct ovary, anecdotes after another
my poor mother brought me peppermint tea at 6 am and you, you cleared my throat
i can see who i was then now within a different set of skinned knees and scratched arms
same overcoat, same bottle-cap heart, i should have done it then when i had the guts —
what is left to stand on? who is here to keep me, change my hushes, cut my hair and splinter my voice?
i was genius then and now only a snail, a rubbed eraser, see the harrowing, take what you can: rumpled, dented: before i crumble and succumb, a gaping hole where my life once was.
1:16am: whatever and ever, so long.
hope is an old tv show, an outdated calender that spells the year backwards. i'm running out of space to hide: the backs of your elbows are stiff with the sounds of my coming, the eagles landing on your tongue and eardrums cause quite a ruckus, the deafening! i hear static between reruns, words between phrases, or places that shatter, glass dripping from still-wet fingers, i'm slipping through the unknown, a vast hello? an echo, i knew i could see tand hear that voice again, that long sleep inside veins covered in snow. without hope as an old radio, a silver satellite cleaning my bones thin and dry, i've run: rereading pages, subliminal text between hiccups and gazes, you are somewhere else entirely. and maybe coasts are crueler, maybe tidal waves behind couches a-wash a-way every sin, in vain i'm sweeping the dust (of you) off my floor and the specks of what-was hang from my eyelashes, galloshes? energies waste. what have we done? hello, you and once twice goodbye, thanks for the time. i'm going outside to fly the moon, wait for a runaway light.
at 5 or 6 am, sometimes, you'll find me searching for pills, in a kitchen, shoving the bread in my mouth, in hospitals, late nights writhing like a moth on sterilized stretchers, next to a man who needs his methadone, the nurses say, "but you're so young" and yet it does nothing for the pain.
for August 20th (today), I'm wearing the same skirt as yesterday and feeling the same old pain - no pristine doctor or professional office space can convince my endorphins to dance or seratonin to sanctify the little body's decay - I'm a gonna grow mold now, I'm passe - this August is not the first nor last, this is one tired poem, one landslide, one morphine rush, one grandfather's talk of July's heat, we see one stone on the Xray, on the way to freeing itself and one little body chilled and curled and dimmed like a blackout - tucked into August, her 20's - rumbling like thunder! Her father, my father passed me the spoon and taught me to cut.
The days keep digging a hole ow and ow and almost there!
Chiseling a path, a tunnel, so they can worm instruments straight on through:
no dead-ends, no U-turns, right from Kidney to unmarked tube, but
the vein complains of constricting, the proximity!
The heart says: you need a permit to keep up this digging... ow and ow and
here unravels some lining, the head's all confused: waterlogged? Maybe
sodium saturates the eyes, they look and look like two lighthouse beams
sweeping, searching, blind?
as it's passing through, i watch the clouds make love then break apart, break open and spill all hell over and over, like me and you.
He clears his throat and looks into the sky, maybe he wonders, Why can't I remember? Where did time drift to - she must have stretched herself too thin, gauzy and faint like the echo of an eye, like the whiff of a dream, like the arch of a storm or the line of a skull, or a smile, or a suicide.
She's wavering like heat, she's numbed and bandaged twice besides, and coming down off Codeine, she's waitressing and ironing, she's undoing buttons and coloring her hair.
His eyes blink and he thinks, My head is filled to its brim, so no thought can come up for air, no memory can break through the algae, the clutter.
And children used to cartwheel on the grass, used to fire-work and foul-play. Now they sit and stare as he sits and stares and Time kills herself second by second.
slightly reworked, but written in april. i sent it off to the bellevue literary review’s fiction contest.
Follow the Sun
1.Diamond shaped tiles, some black some white, gleam beneath one florescent light: long, cylindrical and gripping a Styrofoam ceiling with all of its might, it flickers gently, breathes slow. Perhaps it’s lazily alive. A window with plastic blinds, bleached yellow and twisted awry, holds the sun low in its glass mouth. Outside, parked cars carry a glow in their windshields: orange, opaque. Occasional birds land on asphalt and angled light sticks in their feathers.
A table covered in paper: the transparent, tracing kind. Some mechanism, fastened at one end, rolls it anew; skin can stick like glue to the surface and leave invisible residue. On the wall, metal tools wait to swerve down and around interior tunnels and canals, sockets and holes: they mine, find crystals, dig gold. A meter, still for now, detects life. Three watercolor orchids, white, serve as distraction: count each petal, measure the ovals of pollen, picture the green blood inside.
Curved lines on a red box mean keep away. Nearby, on a sterile counter, four glass bottles. Cotton balls like baby pillows. Wooden sticks like oars. Bandages and balled-up latex gloves. A tray waits to be set. Handwritten words on a plastic trashcan: proper disposal of gowns. A pile of lavender robes with elliptical holes for shoulders to slide through. A telephone blinks red. Its long, coiled cord hangs, as if dead, against the wooden door.
2.Smell your hands. Crack your toes. Rearrange the letters of the artist’s name until you create a worthwhile anagram. Scrap that task and simply read backwards. Say it aloud. Laugh, it’s okay. Dig a hole through the table’s transparent paper with your fingernail. Push all the way through and touch the metal — cold. Retract. Retie your hair. Redo the robe’s flimsy belt so your breasts are fully covered. Ignore the blood whipping, a billion moth-wings inside of your veins. Ignore the stale oxygen trapped in your lungs. Ignore the yanking of a pull-cord in your gut.
Cross your legs and hug your feet. No, it’s indecent; he’ll see your underwear. Kick your legs back and forth. Examine the polish that’s coated your toes all winter long. Back to the painting. White orchids are for funerals, or so you’ve been told. It’s a cruel joke. Laugh again for the sake of breaking silence. Now listen — some shuffling down the hall. A knock and then another, but not at your door. Exhale, slow. Breathe a ribbon of air and let it coil towards the ceiling light. Is it dying? Perhaps it’s just your sight.
Stare out the window. A bird pecks at something from the parking lot, probably a coin. He shines. Envision the orange light in your pores. Press fingerprints to skin and create impermanent stars. Crane your neck: this way, now that. Count the number of blinking lights on the oversized phone. Ignore the wooden sticks and the bottled bandages. Ignore the red box with its biohazard symbol, the red box which holds needles and tourniquets: HIV.
Look back to the orchids. The middle flower has an opened mouth with tiny yellow teeth. It wants to eat you. It wants to dig around inside and search within every hollowed space. Let it swallow you whole. Let it wipe its petal lips dry. Let it turn itself lavender.
3. She cringes. Something about the teeth splitting skin gives her chills. Kate has always despised the sound of apples bitten to their cores. Her long legs dangle, limp doll-limbs, from the hood of Adam’s car, where she sits with her back to the newly risen moon. It appears to have been bitten too.
Adam swallows his sliver and asks, “Well, what will you do?” His voice cracks the air’s hum of silence. His hand grips her thigh.
“What can I do?” she answers. All ten cuticles raw; her fingertips ache. She digs the nails of her right hand into the soft flesh of her left thumb and waits for blood.
“I don’t know,” he answers, dismally.
“That was rhetorical. I know you don’t know.” She sighs and watches clouds turn to shadows.
Kate remembers the time Mrs. Larkey, her first grade teacher, said they were going to make clouds in empty jars. She had imagined birthing and brewing a gray storm: flashes of lightning and waves of thunder, like tiny roars of a lion, trapped inside her own glass globe. When the time came, Mrs. Larkey sang the water cycle song. It was condensation, not a cloud; vapor, not a storm. Kate had precipitated big sloppy tears and demanded Mrs. Larkey let her run home.
She thinks: Adam never knew the old Kate. The old Kate told herself bedtime tales. The old Kate collected rocks in her lunchbox to throw at anyone who teased. The old Kate lied to her mother about her dad, lied to her father about her mom, lied to anyone who asked. The old Kate would’ve fought this with broken, bleeding fists. The old Kate would have stomped that doctor’s words to dust.
“I’ll be okay,” she mumbles, cheeks flushed. Every muscle tightens and her pulse plays hopscotch.
Adam is there. His fingers always gripping, always keeping her in place. He is ready to hold her and kiss her, ready to wipe expectant tears and call her Katy-Kate or Katy-O — only there are none to wipe and nothing to say. When their lips meet, she cannot feel his mouth, cannot taste his tongue, cannot breathe his clouds of breath. His kiss sticks to the lining of her throat and she coughs him back up: head tilted and eyes closed.
4.I want to tell Adam that I don’t dream. Anything remotely dreamlike dissolves long before claiming a spot at the top of my spine. It’s easier to live without faded ghosts feeding at the back of my mind, sucking my subconscious dry.
I didn’t use to have this fear, see…I never questioned life, death, or the absence of either, an eternal eclipse. I didn’t despise the glue holding my bones together or the blood cells slip-sliding through the network of thin blue veins like subway trains. I find myself imprisoned, now, a mental patient cliché — clawing at my arms as if they were walls, a diagnosis on display. I must be restrained before I pry myself apart, scoop out each militant fiber of my being that refuses to obey.
I probably don’t need to explain because we’re all trapped in the game, aren’t we? Styrofoam ceilings, lead dresses, blood bruises and medical tape scars. I own my own collection of stolen souvenirs: miniature vials and tubes, skinny needles, prescriptions I don’t need and samples I do. Still, I’m stuck here: somewhere between contradictions. Over and over, in magazine-ridden purgatories, waiting, while Dr. This or Dr. That decides what next to do. I never win or lose, never cheat or refuse, never collide or oxidize. I’m stagnant, like water catching flies.
I want to wake Adam from his dreams and ask him to rip off this bandage, soaked clear through. I’m black-and-blue, bleeding underground like a flower that blooms inversely with no one to watch it grow. The moon is shivering cold and it slithers down and coils around my violet skin: an illuminant tourniquet. The smoke detector’s light winks every two and a half Mississippi’s, but it’s too dim to cast an aura or even the slightest glow. I’ve already memorized this new room and his presence within.
He sleeps on his side the way I do, curled in a ball like a dying centipede. I know he sleeps toward me even if it means a numb leg and stiff neck. His heart is beating, causing predictable thuds against his bones, but I cannot listen, cannot cup my ear to his chest and receive the Adam Code. Instead, I track the smoke detector’s rhythm, wait for light.
5. Morning again. The scent of coffee is my grandmother’s hair and the rising sun is the yellowing tiles of her kitchen’s floor. Kate hasn’t slept and half-moons glow under her gloomy eyes. We’re on our way to something, but we don’t know what. She’s on the route to somewhere, but we can’t say why. We are sailing to freedom at the speed of light? Losing track of time.
She isn’t mine. I wish I could roll her entire frame into one insufferable knot and stick her in my pocket next to shriveled raisins and half-used tissues waiting for a sneeze. Instead, I watch her re-bandage herself. She is leaning over the motel’s tub and her spine pokes its vertebral head to the surface of her skin.
“Need any help?” I ask. I want to touch her and never stop.
“I got it,” she answers with medical tape between her lips.
We’re alone, save for a dead drone bee on the windowsill and the maid gaining speed to room 206. Kate has nowhere else to go and I have nowhere else to be except for wherever she might wander. My car sits obediently on the gravel in the lot. My limbs wait patiently for her to tell me she’s done.
We are going to pollinate this entire planet.
We are perched on the limb of the sun.
6. Do not trust the gas gauge. Remember, the car is fifteen years old and it’ll always say Full when it means Empty. Pull over at this station and spend what little cash you have.
Now, with twenty-five bucks, you can afford a cup of coffee and perhaps a smidge of breakfast. There’s a diner down the road, according to the man taking your crinkled bills and tossing you a bent coin. Thank him and place your arm around your girl…she’ll back away like she always does whenever someone might see, but don’t be dismayed. She might love or hate you, but blame it on the pills.
Beg her to order, then let her refuse. Use your new coin for the diner booth’s jukebox. Tell her she can choose and pretend you like her choice. Smile as if nothing were wrong. Smile as if souls could flee their required bones. Smile as if hospitals were only pit stops, never destinations.
Don’t ask how she feels. Don’t mention the doctor, don’t mention her father, don’t mention the fact you’ll soon have twenty-one bucks. Don’t tell her about the broken gage in your car. Don’t tell her she’s doing the wrong thing. Don’t tell her you’re scared.
She is fine and you are fine and this is an experiment to see if the two of you can survive. Already, you’ve stolen motel towels and made yourself sick with sedatives she keeps in her purse. It’s been an evening, a sleep (at least for you) and a morning until , not nearly long enough to find your tired faces on a TV screen. Not nearly long enough to find her but a faint echo of the Kate she once was.
Caffeinate your heart and take her by the hand. Lead her back to the car and buckle up. If it makes things easier, pretend you’re in a film noir. Kate, in black and white, could live on and on.
here, I hang from the thread on your ripped jean’s kneecap, torn, awaiting the irony.
Remember that night our friend Sam took photographs of me? You held his light steady and I blinked past the blindness, thinking you could see the scars, hoping you might voyeur collarbone and hip curve, navel and ankle, instead.
Here, I’m chameleon-esque – stepping through mirrors to counteract autonomy,
here, I’m halved, halved and halved to infinite smallness: your pocket lint your spare change, a scoured-down nucleus.
Remember the night you lead us into woods, we trespassed and couldn’t find the moon to bring us back? I winced, wondering where and how you would take me, when and why this would make me cry.
Here, I’m silent – you might mistake me for that kind.
okay, I’ll allow you to categorize me. “weird, crazy vulnerable” blah blah “girl” flung off your tongue in one large spat.
okay, I’ll even agree; it’s an odd discourse, when I slip under your weightless sheets after sleeping on the floor where the cat (neither yours nor mine) has peed…I stink of something aged.
okay, I can be a bit irrational. logic was never my strong suit. I have the worst poker face. (shocking.)
now, I’m going to ask the room [our friends sitting below the billows of a cloud] – “what’s under the couch?” and I can explain the fractal geometry of trees!:
only I know;
I am (am I?) over and over, trying, hurts. (shock – ing.)
[go ahead; call me] a mock Cheshire kitten in loose bobby pins with jaundiced teeth;
I’d rather let you : let me win chess.
okay, you don’t want to hear another poem or problem or complaint from me – poetry lacks “common sense.” I never know when to tip. [or shut.]
okay, you’re no body’s teacher or pet; here’s an (in) finite moment hung in the air like a bug that dares to freeze its wings: [ready?] we are dancing in your room with the door locked (it may as well be walled) to our humming and an absentminded song you recorded in that first house four years back – you’d been waiting for Will from Bard to send vocals; Daisy Cross’s voice asks “is this my beer?” over the pretentious scale that sits on tape –
you only dance when you’re drunk beyond vitamin drawers.
we never mean to leave notes in other peoples’ literature; or smoke each other’s lucky cigarette; never mean to live under one roof sharing allergies and algorithms. bedtime routines clash: our collective punk rock; allopatric apathy [shocKing.] we never mean to be mean; I hate being yr cliché, (purr) okay
I see you wince; your little teeth hurt and you’re done with the concoction I’ve made in your sunshiny kitchen with the cockroach traps. o.k. my words and riddles questions and abbreviations of facts; memorizing your closet when I make myself home; my way of knocking so you have to shout or beating a dead horse when you string your guitar will never suit New York’s maybe sun.
but, (there is always…): we both need lists and glasses; we both eat [air] like no tomorrow; organic eggs scrambled to oblivion.
we never mean to give the meanest eye from one corner to the other; or day dream aloud or lose touch with the shape and(/or) size of our skeletal selves. We never asked for this…(sort of accident)
whispers when no one’s here.
you, okay, are an entirely different per(son) infection; a tiny peppermint heart which cannot be eaten all day. see: a logarithm that won’t explain... [ready?] in every pair of jeans, your knees poke through.
12:04am: glow in the dark threads.
here's the new story i'm working on...i still have lots left to go! but it's due thursday, eeep!
My wrist looks like mold. “Tye, see this?” I thrust my arm in his face as he exhales smoke into my eyes.
“Yeah, that’s disgusting,” he mumbles, pushing me away.
“You’re the one who did it.”
He butts his cigarette on the coffee table and flicks it across the room. It misses the trashcan by a mile. “What are you babbling about?” he asks, annoyed.
“Nevermind,” I sigh. Of course he doesn’t remember. It wasn’t even while we were having sex, it was during an argument over his hair collecting dirt and dust and grime because he hasn’t washed it in six months. Apparently, “dreads don’t need washing,” but the dankness of unclean hair has started to seep into the pillows and I’ve never been able to sleep on my back. I remember saying, “you’re as white as a picket fence and they look ridiculous on you anyways,” to which he grabbed my arm, twisted it backwards and bit me as if thirsting for blood. I enjoyed the feeling of canines digging deep inside, but then my skin turned carmine red, purplish-blue, lavender, and finally green. Moldy-green. He’s right: it’s disgusting.
“What are we doing tonight? There’s that show at the TLA, yeah?”
He huffs like an old man even though he’s twenty-four and walks across the room. Maybe he’s going to pick up that cigarette? No; instead he scratches his head and lowers the blinds. It’s about time for his across-the-way neighbor to start getting nosey and yes we’ve always got something to hide.
“I’m staying in.”
“On a Friday night? Since when do you do that?”
He stares at me hard. It’s the look my mother always gave when I’d tell her something true and she’d say, “Too many goddamn fairy tales; this girl has some imagination,” drinking coffee black and motioning wildly toward whichever boyfriend was keeping her sane. Tye’s eyes are blue but they’ve got her same dark clouds brewing inside.
“Does everything have to be your business?”
“No. I was just wondering.” I pick up the pack of Newport’s on the table, but he’s smoked the last one. Just when I could use some luck. “What is your problem lately, man?”
“Nothing,” he mumbles, peeking through the blinds. A baby cockroach darts across the wooden floor. I fold my knees like paper and press my chin to pointy bone.
His fingers dance along the aluminum panels; either he’s trying to bug me or playing a song. “Ryan’s coming over…I’m nervous about it, that’s all.”
“Oh.” The refrigerator starts breathing white noise and I remember I haven’t eaten all day. “You can talk about it, you know. You don’t have to hide it like some big secret.”
He turns abruptly to lean against the wall. Whenever we’re on acid, we lie entwined on the floor with a flashlight shining up against the flimsy fabric of his favorite tapestry. Its tie-dye swirls slip out of place and start coiling mid-air, twisting themselves into abstract shapes and silhouettes. The walls become water-colored, curious and new: every particle of dust that flits through the air is alight with a substance we cannot name. It makes me forget the dirty plates collecting fruit flies, the ninety-nine-bottles-of-beer-on-the-wall we never recycle, the flea-ridden bitch of a cat that hates me, the fact that his sheets sting and his pillowcase stinks. I forget the miniscule clouds Ryan forms when he does lines off this table; the only surface-area in this one-room hide-away. Sometimes I hold my breath, afraid that every sudden color will infect me, afraid they’ll sit in my gut and manifest beauty I could never keep down.
“Morgan, stop kidding yourself. I can’t talk about it with you because whenever I do you either make some ‘Ry and Tye’ joke or burst out crying like a little kid. I hate to kick you out but you have to realize this is my apartment. I want Ryan here tonight…not you.”
I’d like to say that his words bite or pinch or something equally clichéd, but they don’t. They settle into an already dull ache, collecting their own personal breed of dust in the empty lining of me. I’m too numb to feel any pain. “I’m sorry, okay? I’ll just go.”
I unfold my legs and stand barefoot on the floor. Chills scurry through my veins although it’s July. I fumble through the pile of clothes at the foot of his bed, wedged between wall and couch: amid his and mine and maybe Ry’s, I finally find my tired pants which need a patching. I pull them on as he places one soft hand, dainty like a girl’s, on the back of my neck. I let him linger there and leave my pants unbuttoned, hoping he’ll slide his palm along my shoulder, over my nothing-breasts, down the rickety steps of my ribcage, all the way to my underwear. Maybe he’ll breathe into my ear and bend me over and tell me I need to stay for at least another hour.
Instead he pulls away: “I’m worried about you.”
I button, then zipper, and push stray hair from my eyes. “Why?”
“For one thing, you’re becoming skeletal.” Straight-lined like the boy I wish I was; you wouldn’t have it any other way. You like it, I want to say.
“What are you, my mother?”
“No, your friend.” You’re my friend today, my lover the next, and my dick older brother the week before.
“I’ve had a stomach ache for weeks.”
“So go to the fucking doctor.”
“I’m fine. It’s not like I’ve ever had an appetite anyway.”
“Morgan, you’re impossible.” He plops down on the couch and flattens the empty pack of Newport’s angrily. He’s probably got another stashed with all the goods: hash in little plastic bags, homegrown mushrooms I water once a day, I like to watch things grow, dancing Dead bears you have to lick and peace-sign pills you have to swallow. Everything’s in the toolbox under the sink and the mushrooms grow in halves of two-liter soda bottles in the only functional kitchen cabinet: he installed a light bulb to give them artificial sun.
I don’t respond. Zeppelin, the bitch-cat, is hoarding my flip-flop. I wrestle it away as she claws at my hands.
“When was the last time you went home? Honestly, I can’t remember.”
“Well that sure doesn’t surprise me.” I hoist my messenger bag over my shoulder and survey the clutter of the room. On the windowsill: my bottle of pills — I forget which kind. Near the kitchen sink: my water-proof watch. On the bookcase, middle-shelf: my Chronicles of Narnia, which I got from Dad for my tenth birthday. It sits like an abandoned child between The Cannabis Grow Bible and a bathroom-reader of puzzles. I leave everything in place.
“Just do me a favor, Tye?” I grip the doorknob like I might fall through the floor and glare at him scathingly. “Don’t fuck him while you’re tripping.”
Everybody fights to get the last word.
I can almost see ghosts in the windows.
On the stone path, I stand rigid like a corpse. A thirty-minute train ride from downtown Philly to its northwest suburb, another five walking from the station to my block, and all of it’s made this sudden decision more desirable. Life, for me, is never linear. Time, I think, is cyclical: we keep breathing our first breaths, taking our first steps, relearning words that never express the angry voices in our heads. We make mistakes, pick ourselves up, dust ourselves off and then fall again; my jaw is tired of hitting the dirt. This ache in my gut is a permanent bug, parasitic and possibly fetal. My mind’s made. The truth doesn’t matter in the orb of the moon where nothing exists, and that’s where I’ve been for days.
My house glares me down. We stare at each other. The ghosts have become merely smudges on glass and now each window is a gaping black hole that threatens to suck me in. My blood is sad and gravity drags my bones. I shake my head around and little pieces of hair graze my eyes again; the setting sun forms miniscule rainbows when I blink my lashes.
Like Tye, I can’t recall the last time I was here. School ended early June and already I’ve lost my diploma, or so I assume. It’s been eight months since I first met him and nearly two since I got my job on Chestnut Street serving ice cream. Now I can afford to pay his utilities and chip in for food so the studio apartment’s almost half mine, except that he’s kicked me to the curb for a private night with his pseudo-boyfriend. Now they’ll be doing drugs and having sex while I put plan B into effect.
I stare harder: it’s like seeing a friend after years have passed, though I haven’t many friends so I wouldn’t really know. The house is still jagged and menacing. The hedges need trimming and the ivy’s growing tall; it hugs the brown siding and coils, almost lovingly, beneath my mother’s balcony. The front roof creates a perfect triangle and the unused chimney’s missing half its bricks. Delicately detailed moldings hover over every long window, reminding me always of sun-dials. Columns that connect the wooden awning to the porch’s banister bulge at their centers like they would in ancient Greece. This wrap-around porch, dating back to the Victorian age, was one of the main selling points of the house. Aside from its strangely affordable price.
I give my old enemy one last glare and stride quickly up its steps, onto the porch’s tattered welcome mat, which reads “Welcome Home.”
Luckily, no one’s here. The staircase creaks as I clamber to the second floor, bypassing my bedroom because I know better. Following the narrow, windowless hallway as it twists, I reach the bathroom door and lock myself inside. The tub still has its feet, golden with claws. The cabinets don’t close. The overhead light fixture’s painted pink. Salmon-colored tiles are cool against my knees, exposed through jeans, and I empty the contents of my bag on the floor. Coins roll under the old-fashioned radiator. Chapstick finds a hiding spot behind the toilet, with its chain flush. I look through my wallet out of habit and find two measly dollars after train fare and spotting Tye for lunch. Not that it matters.
I’ve got a few tank tops, dirty underwear, and an empty journal waiting for words. Among miscellaneous pieces of paper and gum, I pick up my nametag from the ice cream shop and fling it into the trash.
In an empty tampon box under the sink, he waits for me. I stole him from the chem. Lab once when I was serving detention: it was love at first sight. His sleek and slender blade, his matching metal handle with indentations for my grip, he slid against my numb skin as if it we had always been friends. I remember our first time. I was sitting in soapy water and we looked at each other; I could see my smile reflected in his sharp eye. He was better than all the others and I used him to make gills because I wanted to become self-contained, wanted to sink under the surface and never reemerge. The long, skinny slits along each of my calves did nothing to affect my lungs, but they colored the water crimson and the blood swirled beautifully along curved porcelain.
Lucille scooped up flowers and crushed them between her palms. She was in a killing mood.
Dirt covered bare hands and feet, grass stained the floral skirt bunched around her thighs…Lucille opened her legs wide and watched the mutilated petals fall onto the ground. I might have sneaked a peak at her sun burnt skin. I could have discreetly tried to glimpse her crotch, the dark hairs jutting from her underwear’s elastic grip.
Instead, I examined the top of her head. Medical metal glinting in sunlight, her reddened scalp was like paper stapled several times over. A razorblade had mowed thick blond hair, leaving one long patch of irritated stubble. A tiny Prime Meridian separated east from west, left brain from right…this scar, or what would eventually become one, was suddenly the most remarkable part of Lucille. I couldn’t look away. I wanted to touch it: finger each steel clip, kiss every point along the freshly sealed gash.
I wondered if I should unzip her skull and climb inside. I wanted to skip between her hemispheres, ride along neurotransmitters and slide into synapses, grope her cerebral cortex for long-forgotten memories and scoop them, one by one, like spoonfuls of ice cream or buckets of sand. Lucky pennies stored for later use.
Lucille had no idea that she’d become beautifully symmetrical, geometrically ingenious. I wondered if I should tell her, “You’d better keep your hat on or else everyone will try to squeeze themselves in, weave meticulously through your brain tissue, fluffy like clouds and foggy like breath.” Instead, I dropped to my knees, picked another flower, and handed it over by its fragile stem.
“I’m sorry,” she said, whispering even though we were the only two creatures for miles around.
“What for?” I asked, deliberately gazing straight into her eyes.
“I can’t make sense of anything now. I don’t know at all what I’m doing.” She held out her hands: pink and white fabric of flowers stuck, as if glued, to the sweat of her palms. I brushed away the dead fragments, the dirt, but her skin was still tie-dyed and sparkling with moisture.
“It’s okay Lucy, I don’t really know what I’m doing myself.” She sighed, one long exhalation that chilled my warm face.
I wondered, when I went swimming around in her soft brain matter, if I might find my favorite memory sitting pretty like a pearl. It was April then and the sun had been shining, but didn’t burn. We’d been exposed to the elements like corpses waiting for scavengers…lying on this grass, which had stained our sweaters and dirtied our hair. She had whispered to me, even though we were the only creatures for miles around, “I could stay here with you forever and ever,” and I’d stroked her head, running my fingers through thick blond curls, which had smelled of newly sprouted dandelions and herbal shampoo. She had kissed me so lightly I’d thought her lips were made of air.
“Do you want to lie down?” I asked, leaning back on my elbows.
She sighed again, lips puckered to the sky. I waited patiently.
“No,” she responded, still whispering.
Lucille’s underwear was cotton with tiny flower buds. Pink buds on white fabric. No hairs visible.
I sat upright and cleared my throat. “Do you remember that time we stayed here for hours? We didn’t go home until nearly midnight and only because the ground got so cold that even combined body warmth couldn’t keep us from shivering.”
She closed her legs and rested one hand on each knee. “Vaguely…I remember my mother yelling at me. Why the hell did we stay here so long?”
“Don’t you remember what you said, Luce? You said you wanted never to leave, that you wanted to stay with me for hours and hours…so we did.” I tried to smile a genuine grin, but it came out cockeyed and broken.
Her own mouth turned downward, a backwards sort of smile. She pursed her lips as if sealing them shut, as if zippering her mouth to asphyxiate breath. I thought again about being inside of her.
“No. I don’t remember that.”
Idly, I picked at the grass and separated each slender blade into halves. Hesitantly, she scratched her head, carefully avoiding the places where surgical steel met delicate scalp. A few birds flew noisily overhead: first they soared in some geometric pattern, then they scattered, dispersing themselves. They took up the entire expanse of blue sky. Our patch of sky.
“The only thing I clearly remember,” she said, starting slowly while watching my fingers slit grass, “is waking up in that bed screaming. The nurses and doctors rushed in and filled those sacks on the IV pole with more liquid, trying to put me back to sleep, and my mother yelled at them, ‘Please, she’s awake, just let her stay awake.’ But they gave me morphine or something and I dreamed my first and only dream.
“I was running back and forth between clouds, jumping and hopping because they were like trampolines but softer, and I fell through the stratosphere with all of this mist blurring my eyes. I fell back into a hospital bed in a room that smelled like Peroxide and then I woke up with my mother sitting beside me, and she told me about the accident and the coma and all the damage and that’s when I reached up and felt the bandages on my head…I couldn’t stop crying.”
She paused. I wanted to tell her, “I visited your dying body every day during that impenetrable sleep we thought might last forever and forever.” Instead, I mumbled, “Yeah…” and plucked more grass.
“Do you know why I cried?” She was looking into my eyes for the first time since we’d walked from the middle of town to this field: acres and acres of nothing but grass and weeds, the occasional bunches of flowers and only two trees.
“Um…I mean, I think I know why.”
“No, no you don’t. I didn’t cry because of the pain or the damage…I cried because it had been beautiful up there Michael, so beautiful. It was like this endless beauty, everything was soft, nothing could hurt me. I was engulfed in the clouds and I could inhale them, swim through them…it was like I could almost become them, you know? But then I fell…and I woke up down here instead.”
I nodded and looked around: green meeting blue, splotches of pink and white, reddened skin, yellow hair alight: hoarding sun. “Is it so bad here, Luce?”
She sealed her mouth and lowered her head. I willed myself to microscopic size and tried, in vain, to climb inside.
2:03am: sunspots have faded
stream of conciousness (written primarily in august), slightly edited....
I cannot sleep, for a change. The room isn’t dark because Sonje’s light is on, she fell asleep in her bed with the bulb burning hot like a miniscule sun and her clothes crumpled like these pale sheets I pull over my head to block out that annoyingly bright light, I have to leave the door ajar so cool air drifts in otherwise it is all-too summer in here, all-too painfully mid-summer and my poor head cannot take the heat because I am always on the verge of an aneurysm and my durra distends and there is nothing I can do to chill those clustered veins that swell and recede swell and recede like the Pacific tide; my skin is alive and alight and summer breathes fire, festering flies lighting and relighting their globular bodies in every one of my pores, I am blinking and burning and glowing a radiantly red florescence and it hurts all over, the sheets are not soft enough, the air is not cool enough, and my mind plays the same song again and again: an unwound cassette, the wails of a pained dog, faint lyrics displaying their intricate lettering all over the ceiling and I sing along, which matters none because Sonje’s asleep and Derek’s in DC; no one shares my bed with me, but I can recall a time when a boy with a stony heart and fragile hair wrapped his long lean body around my hips like a spider ready to eat her mate and I succumbed to those stringy limbs and let myself undo, we bumped against the brick wall and cut ourselves bleeding baby droplets onto the sheets, which took me months to wash because I would look and remember the red dotting his pale-pale skin: whosoever would be cruel enough to rinse away the last remains of someone’s soul?; Tobias wasn’t nearly as long, and he always preferred sucking my bottom lip so that left me his top and sometimes it tasted like sweat and sometimes it tasted like my own chapstick, which couldn’t help but remind me of childhood: all rubbery smells, all medicinal smells, all cottony smells, all artificially flavored smells, or breakfasty smells, or snow-about-to-fall smells like being ready with mittens and a hat, ready to jump into fluffy clouds and swallow ice and angel it all up, then warm the mittens and watch water rust the radiator, but patience-patience my mother would say, for the smell only meant that snow might come, unpredictable were the clouds only my sister knew to name, and I am of winter and hence my poor head in summer becomes all swollen like a balloon: my skin puffy, my sad organs swimming cockeyed, confused, like lost birds; who will come to me before I straddle that gun, come to save whatever soul remains in this concave cavern I call chest…will it be you?: the boy who wears latex foreskin and peels its oily contents snakelike shedding skin, or the girl with rainstorm eyes who stares transfixed into mirror-glass at every imperfection: wide-wide hips and too much skin: giving anyone the chance to come in?, we’ve all got obtuse angles and not enough grin; I am broken, so very broken that I ought no longer to ache or pain all over my self, but I do, and I feel the tug of neurons shifting place or muscles changing shape or my over-active imagination burning tiny holes into every layer of memory, tiny holes like faraway stars in that concave bed of “dark” we wish on for no reason but to hear the gravelly sounds of our voices shaking in our ears because then, only then, can we hear our selves as we truly are, close to our cores, those terrible, beautiful things unlike any atomic design that will ever exist; I am closing deeper and deeper into the photograph that hides in my ribcage and determines who I will become: some suckling animal, some carnivore slinking around in the dusk searching for masochists, only now I am like paper floating in air, anyone could catch me as they would a cold: crumble, shear and tear me to smithereens only to please their own unforgivable souls, which are battery-powered by my crystallization, my metamorphosis into a creature as bright and deadly as the summer sun; every moment is fleeting, as fleeting as mist after rain…and Derek is somewhere in DC fighting battles yet to be won, and Sonje is dreaming some incorruptible dream, and my head, o my head, o my head…my head and I are done.