Summertime—golden flakes of experience added to your hair which is consequently always blonder, despite your best efforts. You wear fishbraids to mimic the sea and you bathe in the ocean.
Freckles double triple quadruple, you say they give you character; the sun kisses you with smooth lips and you are the color of your mother’s favorite scarf—always scarlet. You lay perfectly still and embrace that it will end soon.
Your eyes are cumulus clouds from too little sleep and then too much—you are operating in Leiden or Laon or Ljubljana but not here. You find yourself always wanting lemonade.
Watermelon juice runs down your chin and you throw your head back, giggling. Your mother says that you are such a mess and you say she has seen nothing yet.
You sit on your porch with your mother and write a poem. She suggests you write about the brutal heat and the welcoming shade and you tell her to just keep drinking fresh lemonade.
The summers of our youths are combinations of overrated memories collecting dust in the corners of our minds. They only appear when a room is empty and we are lonely.
Summertime—golden flakes of experience added to your hair which is consequently always blonder, despite your best efforts. You wear fishbraids to mimic the sea and you bathe in the ocean.
We were girls once, following the lukewarm musings of the ones we sought. When sunlight rested on our eyelids in front rooms, backrooms, and kitchens, our vision was full of motion. Our lives were full of brimmed one-sided warmth mirroring the smallness of our backs and our mouths and the things we saw outside our windows. We saw the streets and the soiled cars and the black tar but we didn’t think of those. Instead, our time dribbled quiet from the beams of our hair as we braided it down our backs and encouraged each other with our arms tucked and folded together, piled.
There they were. The boys walked on the outside, laughing flowers and kissing trees. They stood just beyond the window panes, absorbing shocks of light, coming in and out of focus with the gentle wind. They never looked in as we brushed our hair and lay on hardwood, letting the dust pile around our ears. These boys were living in ways we didn’t know how. They didn’t fear the electric wires or the radioactive heat flowing beyond the reach of trees. Invisible, we felt our bones cringe and our skin dangle, long and tattered, melting. We tugged our eyelids into our skulls so they wouldn’t close before the boys left our sight.
And our brains swelled gigantic above the blooming influence of their breathing. We watched. We watched. We watched the riverlike flows of hair and the golden haze of arms and the peek of mountain chests. They smiled again at unheard words echoing airwaves and ceasing at the cracks of our windows, those windows that wouldn’t let the world in. The ones that kept our lungs swollen with the smell of our own rotting skin, pubescent puckered pink and rosy. We were awake under layers of rot, where our souls resembled harmonic chords plucking at the flesh of our hearts and veins, digging the dirt from our lungs.
The boys’ shadows grew long and their legs swung on, past the patch of light through the window, farther and farther from us until they seemed more like dreams and fog than real images. They were sent off with our breath, through the cracks of our fingers and out of our hearts like ghosts, like geese in November we’d seen float past the lines that curve our vision into shapes.
We were alone, young frail girls locked firmly in the womb of a house, stillborn. We hummed like music understood us. We imagined the feeling of kisses on our hands and backs as the skin cracked and fell in dusty piles on the floor, each of us molting our cocoons carefully as the air grew warmer and warmer and split.
We were called girls once, when the winters kept us safe and we could dream. But when summer came we cracked and bled and reversed into embryos, lost traveling into the misty blur of the world.
Under the window, we fold into bones and sleep.
I have been planning to die alone since I was fifteen years old, when I decided to never fall in love because love is dirty and painful and oftentimes not worth it. The thing is, love is all of that, but I will do it anyway. Several times. I will get married to a nice man and I will have two nice children, a girl and a boy, and send them off to nice colleges, and wait for them to grow up and have their own nice families. My husband will die of boredom when he is sixty-seven, and I will be secretly relieved because my hair is not what it once was, and nor are the breasts and hands and neck. I will travel around Europe and finally move into a small cottage by the sea, or maybe a studio apartment in the middle of the city. I will wear multitudes of glass beads and silk scarves from Paris. I will have two cats; a calico named Frank, and a tabby named Ellie. I will play a dusty piano, write poetry on blue ink, paint watercolors of scenery, knit sweaters for my grandchildren, and plant peonies and chrysanths and geraniums in my window box, or front yard. I will go for walks in the rain, do charity work with the church even though I’m not particularly religious but just like the community anyway, play Scrabble on Wednesday nights, and bake on Sunday afternoons. When I am eighty-nine, or maybe ninety-four, I will die quietly in my sleep, knowing my fifteen-year-old self couldn’t be more disappointed.
My spine was the most unappreciated part of me. You had never seen it in its bare nakedness, satiny skin stretched tight over a sensuous serpent of bone, but now, while the moon squirmed in the sky like a bug struggling feebly in a puddle of ink, you could reach across the cushioned expanse of the mattress and touch it.
You brushed my unclothed spine with your fingertips, examining each curve, each crevice, as gracefully as an art fanatic handling a rare vase. You could feel all the beauty in the world, a lone daisy growing in a festering swamp, a premature baby’s first intake of breath, a freak oasis in a desert full of wandering souls, epitomized in a single stretch of interlinked vertebrae and cartilage and milky white bone.
Beyond the window, the night trembled, like an alive thing. Your breath caught in your throat.
You wondered how it was possible for me to exist. I was as vulnerable as a naked flame in this world, this world full of gunpowder and venom and melting ice caps, this world where the sound of slaughter scratched desperately at the glass bubble of the atmosphere with bloodied, ragged fingernails. I belonged in fairy tales; I should have been fluttering my delicate tissue paper wings in a child’s dream-cloud somewhere, not lying here with you beneath blankets that smelled of sweat and mildew. it didn’t seem real. it didn’t seem right.
You told yourself that one day you would climb my spine like a ladder, use my ribs as rungs. You would clamber up into my head so you could see how you looked through my eyes, with your corkscrewed hair and your shadow-ringed eyes and the coarse stubble fondling your cheeks, creeping up the column of your throat. Maybe I could do the same for you, feel the ache that you felt when you looked at me, because I was the closest thing that anybody could ever come to seeing an angel while their heart was still beating.
"Why can’t you see how beautiful you are?" you whispered into my hair.
Unaware, I dreamed on.
I found my way into the land
of milk and honey,
and soon learned the horrors
I have lived in liquid gold, and
fallen into the darkest
I have died everyday for a
the fate of swallowing the
and loving the false wolf.
Dreams of wanderlust boil my
and I have awakened to a
There is magick bubbling up
I want you to come in the summer.
Leaves a vivid green across heartbreak-cerulean sky, and feet bare brown against scorching pavement. It would be nice; me in short-shorts and bikini tops, you with sun tan shoulders and that summer-boy scent. We could do anything.
There’s a shaved ice place in downtown; we could run there barefoot and holding hands, smiling like it had been too many years (maybe it will have been). We could buy two large cones in our favorite flavors and gulp them hurriedly, before the sun ran the juices down their sides and it was lost in the long-long grass, sweet and temporary like so many things. I could lick the syrup off your fingertips and kiss you, finally, and we’d taste like tiger’s blood and lemon-lime, and it would be wild summer love, like nothing else.
We could hop into your old pickup and drive to the ocean, just because. I’d pack us a cooler of chicken sandwiches and cherry tea, and fold towels in the back seat with worn out and tattered edges. We’d drive all day with the windows rolled down, blasting rockabilly songs and eating sunflower seeds; cracking the shells with our teeth and singing along. It would be a little slice of heaven between two metal doors, with my feet on the dash and my hair gathered up on top of my head, light-smeared and sun-warmed. I’d paint my nails hot pink, and we’d stop half way there to buy sunscreen and popsicles. The cashier at the gas station would notice how I ruffled up your hair and the special way you put your hands on my waist as I leaned into you, laughing in the candy aisle, and she would think that we were lovers who would grow old together, until we were frail and wrinkled and gray. And she would be right.
My mother wants to know
if I’ve had anything for breakfast
and the way she talks splits through me
like an axe in a melon, nervous
like she’s talking to a man with blood
that stains his teeth. And the kettle sings,
too loud, that ugly old whee-oh-whee
that makes me feel like a poet or a
native, nervous wreck, a girl dragging
her toes and drawling
as she snaps a cat’s
neck. She asks me again, more
impatient this time because I am
the kind of person that is hard
to put up with, the kind of person
that never begins to listen, and there is
a beating heart sewn into the back of
my head where my hair meets
like a cleaved moon in the middle.
The stitches hurt and the room is
frightening and sad as I pick
myself free with my nails,
wishing the pulse would give out.
I. a person of vision
I could stare forever into your eyes, but I have to blink sometimes.
The world is so beautiful to me, ever changing and never changing, at the same time. I see it all through a filter of a greenish — gold iris and long dark lashes and I wonder if the world looks different through your eyes. Or through coal-black eyes and a fringe of chopped hair, or brown eyes watching through coke bottle glasses. I plan to see the whole world, with every set of eyes imaginable, and I want to see you from every angle in every place. Is it all so beautiful to you as well?
They say you only see about ten percent of the world; the rest is just extrapolation, just your mind grabbing at achievable pieces of a big world, a world so enormous, so beautiful, so measureless and moving and agonizing. I want it all carved into my memory, all of it, not that small ten percent. I desire the exotic locales of the Orient and silent Alaskan wilderness under Northern Lights and solemn temples and golden savannas and vivacious reefs under crystal water. I want it all, all the seasons, all the people, all the places.
I want to see the world and listen to music on the way there and be humbled each and every single time. Somewhere between the motes of dust particles in old attics and the silver reflections of refracted moonlight on murky water I fell in love with the world and never let go. I never want to look away.
I see it all in your eyes.
II. a person of scent
I love the smell of Autumn.
It’s heavy and dainty and it wraps around your fingers and lingers in the air like fog in the morning, just before the sunshine breaks. The reds smell like apples and cinnamon and the oranges whiffed of pumpkin and potatoes. The yellows reek of family reunions, but they’re so lovely. The pale greens release the scent of summers past as each season transformed into the new one, as flowers gave way to leaves. Blues were the promise of snow; they were always my favorites. The rare splash of violet smelled like a bittersweet goodbye, like an explosion of yearning and homesickness for something I could never place. It smelled slightly of your leather jacket and something more — something uniquely you, a smell I will always know but can never put a name to.
I remember a fragrance of places we went together, vague now, yet still distinct. The craft shows smelled of straw and kettle corn popping away in the cauldron and fresh wood. The state fair stunk of animals, but also of cotton candy and of the candied apples we always had to buy every year. Halloween smelled of grey moth-bitten bedsheets become ghosts and stale chocolate and the must of abandoned houses from last century. They melted together in a blend of crisp leaves and rainstorms and early morning bus rides and transformed into the perfume of my favorite season.
Those aromas will linger aimlessly in my consciousness well into the years; the whiff of apple brings me back to those rides on the Tilt-A-Whirl and pumpkin seeds always make me think of your terrible carving skills. The flicker of candlelight and soothing rainfall brings me back to happier days under vividly dying trees surrounded by color and your jacket.
Winter always came just a little too soon.
III. a person of taste
Love tastes like chocolate chip cookies.
I always saved the spoon for you, but I kept the bowl for myself to lick clean with my fingers. You always took part of my share anyway. It’s okay though — I never minded sharing with you, only with you.
There was always too much butter, but you always said it tasted better that way; healthy was never your strong point or mine. Sweet was the flavor of choice, from the taste of ripe peaches to the fluff of cream on an Oreo pie. I savored my hot chocolate on cold nights while you swallowed yours down so quickly I wondered how you didn’t burn — but, you never did like the cold. I grew to love the late nights munching on strawberry-stuffed french toast while you ordered a steak and all the sides at three in the morning because you were just a big eater that way. I liked to watch the waitresses work away on the grill, quick and skillful in their work while the bacon sizzled on the grill; I liked the way they cracked eggs without even looking and flipped pancakes like pros and casually talked with the late night clientele because all the best customers always come in before the sun does. I liked the way you always cleaned your plate like it was the last meal you would ever have — never turn down free food you said.
I miss the coffee shop from down the road because it was close and trendy and it had some of the most delicious food in town, even if it did cost too much. I loved the twenty minute walk beneath bare trees feeling the cold smoke rise from our lips. The hot chocolate came with shots of strawberry syrup or almond or fresh berries, or all three if you were like me. I miss the atmosphere of a quintessentially collegiate coffee shop with painted murals on the walls and comfortable chairs and soft music and the whiff of coffee beans in the air; I never developed a taste for coffee, but I loved the smell. It felt familiar and warm somehow, yet I could never get around the bitterness of the taste on my tongue.
It always tasted sad to me.
IV. a person of sound
We were harmonious, you and I.
I listened to the crackle of wind through autumn leaves and thought of you and all the things we shared together; I remember the crunch of frail tree leaves under our feet and how we would fight to reach that one leaf that was just out of our way and you always reached it first because your legs were longer. I can still hear the rustle of fire and the murmur of snowflakes brushing your eyelids and the out of tune violins that played at the coffee shop every other Thursday night. I recall the crash of thunder and the boom of your laughter that always came when the lightning struck and the soft patter of rainfall against the backdrop of our spontaneous fall symphony. I remember the reverberation of too loud bass humming its way into my very core and fading away slowly but leaving the sensation behind like a metaphor gone right. I hear your voice like a weak echo from a distant land, carried by wind and longing to where I rested, here among the leaves, waiting to receive.
I remember the silence most of all — that pure resonance of understanding that comes between two people who don’t need words at all. When the swish of your long coat or the din of a crowd or a note of sunlight refracted through a whirling array of pinks and oranges could do all the talking for us. I remember the sonata of migrating songbirds, the concerto of incoherent voices tangled in never-ending knots, the pianoforte of tumbling clothes in the dryer, and the exquisitely simple music of your voice when the silence broke and it was the sweetest melody, one I could never tire of listening to.
I hear the bubble of boiling water on the stovetop and the sidewalk sizzle after the rain and the squeak of antiquated door hinges, and there isn’t a sound that doesn’t make me think of you, of your honeyed lullabies of warm affection and soft whispers under the dying trees where no one ever goes now. Our striking harmony was all the more beautiful next to our occasional discord, and I loved even those.
You were my complete compliment in every way.
V. a person of touch
Words are often not enough.
I wanted to walk with you through the rain and listen to your silly ramblings on everything and nothing, how the world was a delightful, stunning, flawed place, how your family was boring but you loved them anyway, about how much work you still had to do but being out here was more fun. I wanted you to ask questions of me and wonder how my days were spent when they weren’t with you so that I could tell you how much I missed you during those times.
I wanted to run my hands over the smooth fabric of your shirt before peeling it off you to reveal the white one underneath and to fill the spaces between your fingers with my own. I wanted to feel your hands on my back, tracing the path of my shoulder blades into the curve of my spine and tremble at the brush of your fingertips along rippling pathways of skin. I wanted to wrap my arms around your torso and never let go; to exchange mutual pleasure and to feel the reality of another person so close, so genuine, so loved. I wanted to feel the electricity of your body against my own, feel the rise and fall of your chest under the blankets. I wanted to caress the hardness of your collarbone with my lips, easing up along your neck, jawline, cheek, and find all the secret places that would make you happy, that would make you smile at me when the sunshine sneaked through the tilted blinds of your drawn window, teasing us with the promise of a new day together.
I wanted the sound of your voice carved forever in the back of my mind and projected by a dusty film reel that clicked and clapped its way through the frames in a collage of beautiful memories of bad ideas that seemed like good ideas at the time. I wanted photographs of hot days and starry nights gazing up into the black. I wanted long walks and longer drives, unhurried swims in deep pools and deeper conversation. I wanted tactile sensations to last as long as they could; I wanted the tousle of hair and the prickle of grass and the roughness of skin and the warmth of your hand in mine.
I wanted to love you like no one else ever could.
He used to take me behind his father’s garage and light cigarettes for us, he made me inhale his first so that it would have my lipstick stains around the thin death stick. I would inhale and exhale while staring at his shoes, big stomp boots that used to crush the life out of flies and beetles.
“Why do you kill them?” I’d ask, every time his foot smashed on the poor life form and made it sound like he was stepping on sugared cereal and not a non dead insect.
“I like the sound it makes, I imagine it’s my father’s skull.”
He fucked me in the garage under his father’s wooden table, and afterwards he’d point to the corner where there were spider webs growing.
“He used to beat me there, with a pole. The bastard.” But he was smiling.
Soundlessly I thought that it explained the old scars on his back. I looked around, inhaled the silence mixed with the scent of lust and dug my nails into my veins.
“Why do you take me in here then?” I uttered impulsively. His eyes were dark, dark stars. Stars ready to fall.
“My father ruined everything in here. I think it would be a waste, a waste of everything, not to fill it up with something other than hate.”