Even the pies. In your absence, the dog barked
for days but I couldn’t bear to put him out
so I cleaned to the sound of his anger.
In your absence, my brother visited and didn’t
ask about you. Not once. In your absence,
I washed my hair but didn’t always remember
to fish it out of the drain. In your absence,
I let the best parts of me lay out and tan
in the sun. In your absence, I burned a lot
of candles and almost danced in my bra but didn’t.
In your absence, I kissed boys that smelled like
gasoline, boys who rubbed their hands all over
my skin, set fire to my eyelashes. In your absence,
I asked myself the questions that were hardest
to answer. In your absence, I never missed
anything more than the sound of you getting up
in the morning to brush your teeth. In your
absence, I had to start telling the truth. In your
absence, I took myself home after a first date
and swallowed his number. In your absence,
I tried to write this poem eleven times. It always
ends the same: you don’t come back and I cut off
all of my hair and sleep with the pieces. I really
wouldn’t recommend living alone. ❞
I’m sorry we didn’t find you in time / that your body betrayed you / that your heart was tired and / your lungs gave up the fight / I would have traded my body for yours / I’m sure you would have put it to much better use / These hands are useless and numb / but I am trying to feel something / anything / my fingers are always wrapped around dangerous things / sharp objects and pretty boys with fast cars / and faster hands / who think they love me / because my mouth is shaped like ‘yes’ / You would take better care / of this sick body / than I ever could / I know more ways to be broken than most / The people who love me / are concerned because / I’m disfigured, barely human / an ugly Frankenstein of body parts / Some people just enjoy being dismembered / or dissected / The boy I have been too cowardly to love / is touching someone who is not me at night / Who gave you the right / to die and leave me here / we were supposed to be in this together / Listen, the moon is saying ‘come into this with me’ / and the sky is saying ‘be brave’ / but it hurts to be so open / and the truth is sometimes you are not worth remembering / I know I promised not to forget but / I love you / I’m tired.
Don’t start an argument with a girl because they all have 45020194 GB of memory and will bring up something you did at 14:23PM on 23/04/2007
on me and since then all hands
have claws. All hands are red.
Yesterday someone held the
door open for me for no reason
and I ran all the way home;
there’s no such thing as being
too careful anymore. Once,
someone put their hands on
me and I forgot what
kindness was. ❞
And this is how we danced: with our mothers’
white dresses spilling from our feet, late August
turning our hands dark red. And this is how we loved:
a fifth of vodka and an afternoon in the attic, your fingers
sweeping though my hair—my hair a wildfire.
We covered our ears and your father’s tantrum turned
into heartbeats. When our lips touched the day closed
into a coffin. In the museum of the heart
there are two headless people building a burning house.
There was always the shotgun above the fireplace.
Always another hour to kill—only to beg some god
to give it back. If not the attic, the car. If not the car,
the dream. If not the boy, his clothes. If not alive,
put down the phone. Because the year is a distance
we’ve traveled in circles. Which is to say: this is how
we danced: alone in sleeping bodies. Which is to say:
This is how we loved: a knife on the tongue turning
into a tongue.
tell me you don’t matter to a universe that conspired
to give you such a tongue, such rhythm
or rhythmless hips, such opposable thumbs –
give thanks or go home a waste of spark
speak or let the maker take back your throat
march or let the creator rescind your feet
dream or let your god destroy your good and fertile mind
this is your warning / this
your birthright / do not let
this universe regret you.
guidelines for a heavy heart:
when everything starts to get messy, learn to organize. fold the clothes neatly, segragate the white from the colored, the undergarments from the nighties. put your mother’s curtains in the basket and remind yourself to breathe. dust off your bed. iron your pillow sheets with your hands. take away the unnecessary papers and put the novels back on the shelf. things get a bit clearer when you have more space. list down things. what to do tomorrow. grocery shopping. replace the laundry case. wash the bed sheet in a week. go job hunting. write down the food you’re going to buy when you get your salary. call someone special and say ‘i love you.’ sing a sad song. sing kesha. sing ‘when i think about you i touch myself.’ realize that when you were told that having a broken heart is normal, it was right. it was logical. set short-term goals like waking up at 5 a.m. to jog. like eating breakfast. like washing your hair more thoroughly. do this every day until you learn to love yourself without a reminder. fill your dream board again and put down the words made by pins. draw him twice, six times. record your voice and tell yourself, “so this is what turns him on.” remember when you were eight and you liked to sit on the couch and watch air supply with your father. remember the good times. then forget the notion that you need it now. plan new memories. play with the kids, build using legos, be their teacher for a day. send sweet messages to your friends. tell a story to your mother. try to sleep earlier than usual. take a hundred selfies then post them on the internet. download a new playlist. look for dreamy apartments in england. plan your next vacation. write a story. a dialogue between you and your 50 year-old self. talk to god. talk to someone who will not judge you. cry a bit. then realize you can pass up as a dramatic actress. give something. a kind word. a nod. a smile. silence in the midst of noise. if they have forgotten to love you, then know that you have not. know that you are here, soft and brittle and with this, you are strong. with this, you are brave. go to sleep knowing the day will pass. wake up and give the day a chance to start.
I believe in girls who roar back at the thunder
and still kiss like the first time they fell in love.
I believe in the people who’s skin never felt like home to them,
so they carved home out of the dust beneath their shoes
and kept on going.
I believe in all the ones who are told they don’t belong.
I don’t think I belong either.
I don’t know what it means to “belong”
but I know the ones shouting have nothing to offer,
that fitting in is the fad diet we’re all starving ourselves to.
I believe in us.
The ones who have never felt good enough.
I believe in the girl next door, who likes to be called “her”
but who woke up, today, with a gender that felt like
hand spun wool and spilled milk,
and who still doesn’t know how to tell her mother.
I believe in the ones dating the wrong people
so their parents won’t have to know
who it is they want to love.
I believe in a fear like that.
I believe in the kindness of strangers
and I believe that turning a blind eye
isn’t what makes you bad.
It only makes you scared like the rest of us.
I believe people learn to be brave.
I believe in the hands picking flowers as much
as I believe in the hands that plant them.
Because sometimes our hearts are too big for our bodies
and they like to go bumping against each other—
love doesn’t mean what you think it does.
You and I don’t love the same, but we are,
all of us, out here loving.
I believe in the collection of fingerprints you pick up
from everything in the world you have ever touched.
If I believe in anything,
I believe that that
is enough. ❞
i am writing you
into a poem. ❞
There are flowers on this bed, an elbow planted by an ear, no, you cannot touch this breast, no darkness, no shatter, and no, no pendulum. The past is a hard nut or a squirrel set inside your lung.
No one has ever hit you. The television with its aura of light. Shapes move against the wall. You sit on a hand and watch Beetlejuice while he moves his fingers over your white underwear. You watch the screen and see his fingers. Your brothers are in the room, but they never seem to notice.
Behind the lens is the father. Mother offstage calls, Con gai nay. On the phone, Con gai thuoi, which means, This girl. This girl’s rotten. This girl like swollen fruit. She cuts off the bruises. She teaches me to cut.
He rises to the surf. It detonates with a sheering crash. Inside each wave is a barrel. In each barrel is a vacuum that can suck you in, spin you round, snap your bones if you tumble the wrong way.
If I say, I have been touched. If I say, by my cousin, then, a neighbor boy and then another. If I say no, I didn’t want it from my first boyfriend. There was blood and membrane and he didn’t believe me. If I am trapped in a winter coat. If my body can be a box. If I can close it up. If it has to be open. Who will touch me again?❞
is not a man, really I do,
nor is it the word husband
anywhere on my body.
I know grace to be twisting
the most fierce likeness
of a kiss. To make
the colour-blind boy
weep red. ❞
Why We’re Going To Church
Because it is Sunday
and because I had to go
when I was a child and because
I sold my soul to God
when you were born
and He held your breath ransom
and because He is a son of a bitch
(but we keep that to ourselves)
and put on this dress
and stay still do not pinch your sister
and because mortality licks my ear
like a dog every morning
and what the hell a spiritual life
is a vertigo buzz and because
I want you to know
something about redemption
so that you won’t confuse
Christmas with shopping
and Easter with chocolate
and because the moon
happens to appear the same size
as the sun and darkens our earth
with eclipse and because my soul
is a cavernous maw
and because those people in the hall
laid their hands on me when I cried
and they prayed and they sang
and your lymphatic system
stopped dripping and because
some mornings are silver with frost
some mornings mist with enchantment
and I think it is worth
over the kick of your feet
so you can sit here
beside me—still, please!—and
look heavenward while we
open hymn books
and sing beyond reason
our voices braided with thines
twisted with thous wet in blood
all our voices rising above your upturned face
covering you with clouds and wind and sun
and maybe heaven.