Watermelon

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.

Asleep

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.

My Body

The bed was
unmade and unruly
and it never did
straighten entirely

even with the
corners tucked
so tightly in;


kind of like my mind.
even if it’s calm
and clear,
it’s still crinkled

and
not quite right.

How to Die Alone

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.

I comb dolphins out my hair,
cough out peonies and sit in the nook of the moon,
catching comets and planting their seeds
so they can grow back up up up
to the moon.

I create tempests, swell the oceans
and they are moved to applause.
I have primrose fingers and a fountain pen
that blossoms,
a springtime secret garden spilled over the page;
an entirely purple creation.

Lavender legs, I have lavender legs
and I stride down cloisters
leaving a violet mist.
A tea leaf smile, distilled and warm,
flora tumbling out of my ears.

Lavender legs, lavender legs,
I have lavender legs
and dolphins in my hair.

Depreciate

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.

Essence

I spent my time
memorizing your essence.
The texture of your skin
as my fingertips danced upon it,
the warmth of your mouth
as you kissed me goodnight.
Everything started
and ended with you,
you had become routine.

Now my hands search for you
in the midst of the night
grasping sheets
until I grasp reality.

Apple Seeds

The first time that he found me he asked me why I was just lying there in the grass.

The second time he joined me and told me that in his dreams he could swim underwater for hours without having to break the surface, he could just sit on the bottom of the ocean and watch bubbles pass his lips and float away. Then he said that he would wake up or drown or something like that.

And I didn’t say anything but I wondered if his air bubbles missed being his oxygen, and if his skin tasted like salt when he woke up.

The third time he didn’t join me and he just stood there until I knew what he was asking.

I told him how when I was eight I planted a handful of apple seeds five steps from the patio. I watered them all day and slept in the grass and when I woke up I wondered why I wasn’t in an orchard. And sometimes when I lay there I can feel the roots of my tree trying to break the surface, but I think that sometimes they’re happier down there and that’s okay.

blood in my hair

Some nights I drive all
the way home and then cannot
remember how it

was I got there or
how many people I left
behind; some nights I

feel like I could run
every red light and never
think of going back.

Places I Can Jump From (And Not Feel A Thing)

It was three in the afternoon and I was with a boy in his father’s bed looking out the window, watching the snowstorm, wanting to die. I wished that I were drunk because if I were drunk I would not feel so low, so dirt in the bottoms of my shoes, so much like closing myself to him, like curling into a ball and covering every inch of myself in water. I could jump off of the George Washington Bridge. I could jump off of the Williamsburg Bridge. I could jump off of the Brooklyn Bridge. I could let myself fall into the forgiving waters and I wouldn’t be dying so much as I would be healing. These were the things that I was thinking.

It was four o’clock and I was on the corner in front of the boy’s house in the snowstorm and I was trembling and chain-smoking cigarettes and wishing I was anywhere but there. The boy didn’t even bother to ask me if I was fine as I left his house, angrily slamming the door behind me. He must have seen that I was crying that whole time, he must have noticed that I kept whispering despite myself, please, please stop now. I was thinking about bridges and bathtubs full of razorblades and electricity everywhere and alcohol poisoning and heroin overdoses and all of the ways in which we could break and it would be so damn simple. I was thinking about how I wanted to close my legs together hard but I was standing up. I did it anyway. It was four thirty and I had been chain-smoking cigarettes for half an hour and I was still squeezing my legs together too hard.

It was six o’clock and I was home and my father was angry. I was hiding in my room and he wouldn’t stop shouting, shouting about nothing and everything, shouting so loud his voice cracked through and it was harsh like the back of my throat from all the smoking and all the crying. I crawled under my bed, shaking. I stayed there for a long time. It was six twenty two and I was still under the bed when my father stopped shouting. It was six fifty seven when I came out dried up.

It was eleven o’clock at night and nothing made sense. I chain-smoked more cigarettes out of my bedroom window. It was eleven thirty and I thought I could call someone, and so I called someone, and their voice was edgy and they hung up fast. It was eleven forty-six and I asked my mother what makes a person a slut. She told me and I left. It was eleven forty-eight and I was a slut. It was eleven fifty and I was a slut. It was eleven fifty-six and I was a slut. I thought about razorblades and hiding in my grandmother’s attic. I thought about the George Washington Bridge and I thought about how it felt when I was falling after jumping off of a diving board and it was too late to change my mind and I thought about how it was too late to change what had happened when it was three in the afternoon with a boy in his father’s bed looking out the window, watching the snowstorm, wanting to die. I thought about how I couldn’t stop falling.