More dreams. This time, a spooning. You tell me, “Your convex is my concave.” There is so much that is empty in waking. In mornings.
I can still remember the look on my father’s face when
I asked if I could go on the pill. He thought things like
sex and boys and god, but we can’t let her leave the house
ever and I had to smooth a lot of edges, explain it was for
I gained nine pounds, went up a cup size, had to wear
thicker sweaters and spent the better part of the year
explaining to friends that it was almost worth it. It wasn’t
for sex, but for the lack of—a daily reminder taken at 8:01
each morning that this body has to function without an
orgasm, the lack of a shared glance between classes. It
was warfare. Battle without deaths or guns, but still a
battle. Still the taste of smoke in my mouth and rinsing
the ash out of my hair. They
left out too much in Junior Health. We had to stumble
our way through the dark to the other side, had to learn
for ourselves that it is the best of times and the worst of
times and that in the end, there is no pill that ‘does it all.’
We are kindling. Consumed by flame. Our bodies are
perpetually in the heat of summer. It is a clumsy kind of
ache, a wobbling, a shaking, an earthquake. Some of us
want to be saved while others just want.
Our hearts beep and whir. They are wanting, always. They
are fickle toddlers, unlearning, self-healing, mistaken, easily-
fooled. They are wishful. They are iron in the mouth, a key
swallowed. Kindling to a fire. You can’t bring yourself to
I had a dream the other night in which your skin smelt of rubbing alcohol. When you brushed up against me, I caught on fire.
and tiled floors. Each step taken echoes,
resolves. After you remove your shirt it is
as if I’ve never seen a body naked before,
have never noticed the sinews of muscle
that make up a torso. Have never seen the
notches of bone that make up a back. I
want to say magnificent but people don’t
talk like that anymore. The word dies as a
breath on my lips. Everything is shockingly
clear, sharpened. When I look away, all I
see is static.
2. You would never look at me like this,
especially if I asked. My hips feel lighter these
days, my lips are less chapped, my shoulders
stronger. There are days when I feel beautiful
like solar flares and days where you eclipse my
heat like moons.
pinky nail and two mouthfuls of
Coke hide your crime. You don’t
think to tell your mother, who
would kill you if she found out.
You don’t even stop to wonder
about motherhood, if it’s for you.
If it’s not. All you care about is
fear and your boyfriend holding
your hand as you give the $50
bill to the pharmacist. The rest
of us wait patiently behind you,
witnesses. You take it in the car,
under the sun. Two mouthfuls of
Coke. You touch your stomach
after and swear you can feel it
working. There is a feeling of
victory, of comradery in the car
afterwards. There is laughter.
A swearing off of sex. Later, as
we stop to get lunch, you sneak
a palm onto your womb. You
whisper an apology that no one
things like a generic username and how sick
you are of being lonely, you realize that you
have no idea what to put in your ‘About Me’
section, that talking about yourself makes
you feel tired. Stretched out. You think about
deleting your profile but you are so fucking
lonely, and all of those ads about true love
and diamonds and perfect families make you
grind your teeth together. You consider a
date with your dentist after going in for an
appointment about the tension in your jaw.
After uploading a profile picture and waiting
for someone (anyone) to message you, you
get up and let the dog out. You make tea. By
the time you come back and refresh the page,
there are several new messages. As you read
through them, you wish someone would have
told you about loneliness. How it sneaks in.
Makes middle-aged men look like fetishists,
creeps, weirdos. Makes you feel naughty for
looking. For wanting. You go to bed without
replying and the morning feels like a punch
in the gut, a hole in the ozone. You delete the
account, let the dog in. You make more tea.
Over the sound of the water coming to a boil,
you come to the conclusion that they are all
freaks. You call your dentist.
you have been dreaming of me more often
than you could count, that you don’t prefer
your mother’s love to mine. Tell me how you
would never let me beg in order to get you to
stay. Tell me how you wanted to escape from
your own body. Tell me that you came freely,
that six little pomegranate seeds have never
tasted so good. Tell me how they felt, sliding
down the silk of your esophagus, resting at
home in the pit of your belly. Tell me that you
will always return, like rain. Like roses. Even
the earth misses you when you are gone. You
are crucial to both of us. It is a fixation that I
can understand. Convince me that you cannot
wait to come back, that you prefer me to the
sun. Tell me that you know how I fought for
you. Your mother makes the days longer on
purpose and I grow homesick in the absence
of your body. Tell me that you chose me. That
you love me. That you crave the dark.
I am in the middle of dialing your number
when I realize the dial tone is mocking me.
I hit ‘end’ without skipping a beat, something
bigger and harder than a lump sitting in my
throat. It’s been raining for four days straight
and I can’t be bothered to bring an umbrella
with me. You loved the rain, would suffer a
fever for it, would probably buy it flowers on
Valentine’s Day if you could. I want to feel so
much that I want it to overwhelm me. I want
to short circuit feeling.
I can’t delete your number. Umbrellas are
alien things. Your funeral is a song I can’t
stop singing. Your mother looked prettiest
when she was in her mourning best. Your
sister didn’t let go of her boyfriend’s hand.
You said once, not to me, overuse ‘I love
you’. It has not stopped raining. I don’t go
anywhere without thinking of you. You
haunt my bones and the space just beneath
my skin. I am a vacant house, boarded up,
for sale. The floors creak. The wind gets in.
Everywhere, your ghost.
head in the oven and turned it on. Your last moments
must have been brutal—suffocating, your lungs trying
hard to take in clean air. Later, we discovered how
you had meticulously thought your dying through by
stuffing rags and towels underneath doorways and
windows that separated the kitchen from your
sleeping children, as if to quiet the sound of your
secrets spilling out onto the tiled floor. You were a
thoughtful mother. Two glasses of milk and bread
sat out for them, waiting like you should have been.
Oh, Sylvia, how we romanticize you now. Girls all
across America think about death and ovens, plates
of bread waiting for children who sleep. They want
to leave without saying goodbye, want to unpack
suitcases and leave their clothes hanging in the
closet just so. Tell them it wasn’t as easy as you
thought it was going to be. Tell them you hesitated
as you tied the knot to your own noose. Tell them
how you choked on the taste of air. Tell them how
hard it was to give up control over your own body.
Tell them, Sylvia. Because we have spent our nights
buried deep in the dark of our thoughts over you,
have clutched your poems to our chests like tissues,
like lovers, have wanted to try your dresses on and
run your brush through our hair. We salivate over
your thoughts and write your words next to our own.
We cannot stop dreaming about you. You have eaten
our hearts out with a spoon. We would never think
to ask for them back.
Canada every year as a thanks for their help
during WWII, then I should be able to love
you less. Or the same. Do not let me love you
more. It is already so much, too much. It is like
carrying too many books home from the library.
It is like driving home drunk. It is like peeling
my own skin off, layer by layer. It is pain. Don’t
let me ask you to stay. Do not give in. Do not
pause at the door, palm on the handle, letting
me read the hesitation in your neck. Keep
walking. Keep leaving. Close the door. Lock it.
Lock it up tight. Let me throw myself against
it. Let me beg. Let me plead. Let me say your
name like it is the last thing that I will ever
say. Let me say your name like it is prayer. Do
not turn back please god. Do not use the spare
key to turn back the lock. Do not come in and
pick me up and take me to bed like I am a child.
The bed is not a trench. Your hands are not
weapons. Do not look at me as if this has happened
already, as if you will always turn back for me. Let
me hold desire like others hold guns. Love me, you
say, holding tulips like surrender. Each bulb is
bright. A swatch of sun. 20,000 suns to Canada
every year. Sent in thanks. They are not on fire
yet. And I have to learn to love you less.
tracing down your neck, chest, the back
of your hand. You show them off like
medals, scars gotten from the thick of
battle. I don’t realize how I stare until you
pull your collar back up, turn away to show
someone else. Now when I close my eyes,
those scarlet lines are all I see. How she
claws at you like a cat. Draws battlefields
on your skin. Draws blood. It is a taking
over. A claiming. What do I have of you
but little pieces of your laughter, a word,
a glance, a touch on the back of my neck?
All fit easily away, folded up like a secret
note, a grenade under the tongue. Her
name is gunpowder in my mouth.
not always want to get up. Some days I have
to spend an hour forcing myself to loosen
the muscles that have, overnight, clenched up
like fists. It craves caffeine and the Internet,
bubble-baths and green tea. It wants wine and
laughter and books and soft sheets. It wants to
be spoiled and taken care of and let go of. It
wants to stop being stretched like a sugar pull.
There are days where I want to smash every
mirror in the whole goddamn house—and other
days, better days where I think anyone could
see me and fall in love. It is not vanity, it is not
ego. It is sure, like the melting of summer into
autumn, hands on a railing, mothers loving their
children and kissing them goodbye at the gate.
No one will ever commemorate my beauty. There
will be no parades, no parties thrown in my honor,
no glossy magazine covers smelling like ink and
skinny and perfect skin. This body is all I have. It
is stubborn and slow to rise and it wants everything,
god, it wants the world, it does. It just wants. Wants.
It wants to stop being asked, What do you look like?
when you can see for yourself. When you can see.
I hid your picture under my
pillow like teeth, like postcards.
I folded it in half, cut her out
like disease, a mangled limb.
Your arm curls around air.
In the bathroom at school on the
second floor, locked stall. Your
eyes dig into me like fingers, like
unflattering fluorescent light.
Hiding beneath bubbles in the
bath, patches of skin showing
up soft pink. I am a newborn, all
touch, feeling. I imagine that you
hear me cry across town.
4 & 5
Coming so hard I see planets,
whole solar systems. The irony
of your homosexuality does not
escape me. I laugh between
I have to comfort my body after,
have to shush it and hide beneath
the sheets, sweaty and bruised of
lip. This is hunger. This is how
Because saying oh, god so many
times isn’t going to get me into
me between your fingers, cupped palms.
How you fed me, clothed me, taught me
the shape of trees and bodies and how
to brush my hair without hurting myself,
how I breathe only because you allowed
me to grow in your womb. Thank you for
the bed in your belly, mom. I am sorry for
the pale white scar on your abdomen,
for how I refused to let go, so they forced
you to let go of me first. I am sorry, too,
that I am not going to school to be a doctor
or a lawyer or some kind of engineer, but
your support is like the sun. Crucial. So
this is for your hands, those star-shaped
things that extend outward from your wrists,
that held me, that carried me, that love me.
You said I left scars on your hands, the
good kind that remind you of how things
were. When you open them and hold them
up to the light, I can see the faint outline
of a smaller heart in your palms. You smile,
close your fists. Tell me to never love
anyone without seeing their hands first.
I don’t really know if what I’m about to say is a good thing or a bad thing, but I didn’t take a formal class on how to write. So I’m really no expert on how to write, or how to write well, because, well, that’s entirely subjective. It’s just something that I’ve been doing since early junior high—though I promise the stuff I used to write back then was borderline appalling and on those rare occasions where I stumble across old notebooks from that time it is not with fondness. It’s actually kind of funny because I remember from grades 5-8 I used to write a LOT and then high school happened and my interests kind of changed and I still wrote and everything but not nearly as much as I did in junior high, you know?
I’ve always been a voracious reader though, and that’s what I did in high school. God, looking back now, I read a lot in high school. I might have actually spent more time reading for enjoyment than I did studying. Hm. I used to sneak books under the table to read like others did with their cell phones. And if it was a particularly good book, oh my god, forget it. I could spend an entire double-period reading and would have absolutely no idea as to what the teacher had just talked about, if asked. It’s not necessarily a habit I’m going to tell you to develop, but whenever anyone messages me about advice to people who are hoping to better their writing skills, I always always ALWAYS tell them that they’re not going to improve unless they read.
I mean it. Read everything you can get your hands on. Get a library card. Get two. Subscribe to a few literary magazines, purchase some poetry, spend one Friday night a month at your local Barnes & Noble. Don’t most have Starbucks in them now? Get a chai latte and some Plath. Or Bukowski. Neruda, Fitch, Addonizio, etc. So many good writers. Plenty to choose from. Anyway, read. Read until you’re stuffed. Read until you’re brimming with thoughts and words and writing styles and lives that happened, are happening, or will happen.
Understand that you’re not going to become fabulous overnight. It’s honestly a lot of hard work, and there will be plenty of nights where you will sit at your computer or typewriter or journal and want to hurl it at the wall because the words just won’t come, no matter what you do. Writer’s block is a common ailment and it affects thousands—if not millions—of us each year. When this happens, grab a favorite book. Or try something different, like a news article or a favorite word. Try centering a piece on either of those. Google writing prompts. If you’re not shy about letting others see your work, ask to collab with someone. Or just go to sleep. Relax. The words will come, I promise. There will be days where you won’t be able to stop writing, just as there will be days—maybe weeks—where you won’t be able to write anything at all. You will become frustrated and angry and you might even take this out on other people. This is not a bad thing. In fact, try to write a piece about not being able to write. You’d be surprised at what you pull up.
Also, experiment, experiment, experiment. There are tons and tons of writing styles out there and I find that you need to try on a good fifty or so before finding a few that work for you. Select, maybe, a few of your favorite poets and format your work like theirs. Try your hand at prose, haiku, limerick. Maybe short stories are your thing. Or maybe novels. All of us have stories to tell. Sometimes it just takes a little longer for some to get there. But I find that when the words come, when the story comes, it’s always worth it. Words are worth waiting for. Just be patient. And get that library card.