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what to do when he doesn't say it backa)
you will give all of yourself to a boy who won't know you at all.
he will recycle your parts, make you stationary, bind you into
paper that he will gift back so you can write poetry about him.
you, too, say i love you quickly.
when he doesn't say it back, evaporate.
he will kiss you in places you didn't know existed.
until him, you were a peasant in your body's palace.
he crowned you princess, broke the lock of your castle's gates.
when he doesn't say it back, load your cannons.
you are a fountain pen.
look him in the eye when you write him letters on your skin.
when he asks to read them, surrender.
you have always been this way: too eager
to make wildflowers bloom inside of him.
when he doesn't say it back, trim the stems.
when he tells you that your eyes remind him of tree bark,
show him that your gaze is sturdier than nature's limbs.
without breaking eye contact, slowly back him into a wall.
when he expresses discomfort,
ask if he knows what choking is like.
the garden familymy father met my mother on the train tracks
leading out of Hackensack, New Jersey.
she was clad in blue and embossed with blisters;
he was wearing a black sweater and had a stumbling tongue.
the night they exchanged promises, the moon
was hiding under a cool blanket of factory smoke.
my mother wore a black n’ beige dress,
my father was decked in the finest leather shoes.
their love was a budless stem:
to appreciate it, you had to do some gardening.
the botany of our family is complicated.
i am a shovel and my brother is soil.
my mother is a watering hose and
my father sets with the sun. come winter,
she will freeze in time and we will
barely see him through the clouds.
the occasional drought will manifest into our lineage,
but my mother will burst like a floodgate.
sometimes, it'll get so cold that the crops will be frostbitten,
but my father will break the barrier of clouds.
i will help dig my brother out of messy situations
and we will be
just a plot of land on the map of our f
unanswered phone callsmaybe if we enjoyed the lullaby of empty
dial tones, we would fall asleep somewhere
amidst the clatter of unanswered phone calls.
there is a melancholy to be found in silence.
nothing but the static between our muted voices,
only the sterile hum of knowing you are
watching TV or driving or laughing or fishing
or out with friends or asleep somewhere.
love is not a limb; if it's lost, it will always grow back.
i am discarded bandages and surgical knives.
you are an amputated arm; your phantom limb
haunts me whenever i doubt your ghost.
i learned a trick to uncovering the scent of a hospital without
actually going to one. pick a beach on Lake Michigan and swim
to the point on the horizon where the clouds become water.
you will find me there and immediately recognize the smell
of emergency. do not be alarmed; love is no urgent matter.
again, we will hug a hospital bed with no way to pay the bills.
the best way to dance is to a soundless song.
remember: the silence. when i’m re
the lump in my throat isn't always a poema man with a scruffy beard and ice-blue eyes once told me:
when we love, we get angry when we are not loved the same way.
i wonder if he saw the hint of indignation,
the fragments of promises still swimming in my irises.
i want him to know that my smile still stutters across sentences,
that even though i haven't broken yet, i'm pretty damn close.
i want to ask him:
if an avalanche occurs when no one is looking,
will there still be a feeling of panic?
what happens to the leaves on apple trees?
if the piano is out of tune,
why do we bother dancing in the first place?
there is this lump in my throat that has not yet translated into a poem.
i think it's stuck there for good.
the human body cannot discard vitalities;
it is not designed to expel emotional things.
as he undressed me for the third time that night,
i tried to imagine what the moon tasted like.
my tongue kept clawing its way to the back of my mouth.
i enjoyed it too much.
now, his hands find themselves curled i
burning bodiesand we yearned for something deeper tangled between bed sheets
but our palms were always split open, spilling malice.
our bodies, always in dire separation
even in scalding proximity.
je dis beaucoup des mensonges.
i tell a lot of lies.
we curled ourselves alongside icicles to bury the flames.
my waist still feels like a graveyard.
even after all the times you tasted my bone marrow,
you still have the nerve to say i'm not bitter.
our mansion is burning from the inside out
and we force-feed the desire with
prolonged gestures and held-breaths.
our combined scar tissue lies in a heap on the floor of our shrine
and the skin is nearly poison when we add our cancelled convictions.
i tore myself apart until all my limbs
seeped into the dirt and sprung dandelions.
neither of our backbones found forgiveness.
we are hiding in the crevices of bedrooms
behind locked doors
underneath all the fight we never knew we had.
this is how smiles tear:
my teeth are lodged in your ribc
you can find my heart in the Pacific Oceanon the night of salt and leftover secrets, i tell him about
the Pacific Ocean, how in Mexico, they say that it does not
you can walk to the edge and curl a million secrets
under your tongue and spill them all at once and
the water will drop them the second it picks them up.
he and i have never been fond of life jackets and the Pacific Ocean
is much too deep to swim in. if you look closely, you can see the
floating bodies of those who tried to cheat love but drowned in the process.
see, humans are not like the Pacific Ocean. try as we might,
we will never forget the taste of robust love or the way a smile
feels after a long day of bearing burdens.
listen, the Pacific Ocean breaks in waves.
all we hear nowadays is each other’s silence;
the water swallowed all of our words and forgot they existed.
he and i will go swimming, desperately searching for them.
within minutes, our bodies will become martyrs for a cause
we’ll never be able to remember.
forest firesmy signature scrawled across all
of your sentences like a stain of apologies:
i'm sorry for anchoring you to my hip
like a one-sided promise, like a flood of insincerity.
i'm sorry for collecting you like a well of wishes,
for whispering you into every crack in these walls.
i do not have the depth to tether our limbs
with the tautness of our smiles, but i will
balance you on the edges of my knees until
you slip away.
i have been kneeling with my arms outstretched
but the divinity of your touch
never graced my expectant stance.
our bones built forest fires together,
but it was always my tears putting them out.
my father lived in Indiamy father is a man of many colors.
on the nights when the moon stays asleep,
he lotions his palms with pomegranate juice.
the sugared blood pools in the creases of his
skin, staining it India’s red.
sometimes, my father scrubs his hands until
they are nothing but flesh & fruit rinds.
when he was younger—all skinned knees and pocket
knives—he must've slipped on a thousand marbles.
my father’s father was a welder who rolled and spun
steel into tiny spheres.
when he died, my father’s hands became blue and
free of pocket knives. to this day, he keeps a bag
of marbles on our mantle.
from time to time, he shakes the cool metal into
his open palms and waterfalls it back and forth.
see, this is the trouble with blue hands:
they never let go of the things that scar them.
they try so hard to be red again.
my father doesn't like whistling because
an old woman in India told him it was uncivilized.
she perched herself on the edge of the Ganges River
looking for the moon "1 in 3 teens on the street will be
lured toward prostitution within
48 hours of leaving home.”
-National Runaway Hotline
you’ve always kept your suitcase under the bed
and your baby teeth in the sock drawer. see, you
were saving them — the teeth, i mean — for the
day you finally learned to let go.
escape always tickles the underside of your decisions.
you’re the skinned knees type: bumpy elbows and
gapped teeth, more freckles than your father knows
how to play connect-the-dots with.
one Tuesday 3 years ago, the moon never showed
so you learned how to pack your suitcase and went
out looking for it. you stuffed your baby teeth into
your pocket and powdered your constellations pale.
a man in Moline, Illinois told you that baby teeth are
God’s way of showing us how to move on. God doesn’t
know how to abandon, so He makes us do it. maybe He
never flosses. maybe He wears dentures, too.
God is just s
6 ways on learning how to swim1. toes first
when i was younger i thought i was
beautiful. not like the other girls, of course, but i thought that
the sun followed me around because it thought i was pretty.
and i am a shop-a-holic. money burns a hole in
the back pocket of my jeans because i love to spend it.
but i do not like to go shopping. i love the idea and hate the activity.
there are few days that trying on clothes brings me
happiness because there are even fewer days that i love my
body enough to look in a mirror.
but i am trying.
("i love this dress! i can't believe that it fit!
i dropped another size!"
"what, mom? why are you looking at me like that?"
"...oh, please. one size?")
there are days when i don't leave my house and there are days
that i spend the time to put on makeup and
nice clothes to open the door and feel the fresh air and
to admire all the lovely, smiling, silently judging people who
i think are looking at me, but they probably aren't
field notesi read some poetry
just for the sound--for the words lilting up and down
and the thick, honeysepia
polaroids unmisting in my head.
those are the poems i never understand
and the only conclusion i can draw is:
there is apparently
some supernova poetic awakening that comes
with the loss of virginity
and basically i need to get laid.
eleven reminders to love yourselfi. When I talked to myself in
kindergarten, my teacher caught me
nestled between crayons, and towers of neatly
stacked voodoo drawings, darting to find
the perfect color, saying, "Mommies f-f-feed
their babies through the b-b-belly button;
that's why I have one. But they cry,
I c-c-cried, because I came out of my mommy's
mouth." My mother was called to school
that day; the teacher explained that
I was s-s-stammering a lie and it needed
needed fixing, so my mother
halted my stammer in its tracks
and didn't hold back when she said,
"With a head that big, you never would've
left my body, darling."
ii. The gold of the sun is
painful to me; I'd rather let the Margalla-exhausted monsoon
winds, subtend over its study of yellow
and blue to give me grey, (which once made
me cry because the color wheel said
green was right) and I'd rather
let my scarf darken under the reign of
a lightning-mustachioed sky,
bellowing a thunderous roar
My melanin levels couldn't
dampen me on s
.i don't believe
that if you can dream it
you can do it,
cos i once dreamt that
i killed atlas,
i tore him limb from limb and then
i stabbed the globe he held,
and sometimes i get sad
about the children in the world
who will choke on all the words
that they'll never learn to speak,
and there's a baby somewhere gargling
the meaning of his life,
and he's a little bit upset that you
keep wiping it
(i have no words for you)
Ode to Souls
our society is built on the binary of proper lines.
spotless, picturesque, sanitary lives trailing cycle upon cycle of symmetry.
yet we function better without framed order.
we have wanderlust built into our core; we bleed out the seasons when it suits us.
our lives are made of tire treds feeding the clouded sunset, skies pouring violently over
ravenous hearts seeking catharsis.
the nyctophiliac, the heliophiliac.
the nemophilist, the pluviophile.
if we breathed in your blank normalcy, we'd crumble and die.
.the birds don't sing
anymore, they sigh -
a magpie shouts, i think
it's time you heard this,
god you really are a stupid
girl, if you saw things
from up here you'd understand,
see - some kids they don't
ever hatch, don't mean
that it's your fault, and if
you hold on to the shell of
em you're the one that's gonna
crack - so throw it out yeah
just get rid of it i'll
help you if you want, i'll
scoop it up with one swift
wing, and i won't be
bringing it back
(things might be picture perfect but i much prefer the frame)
where i dance alonei. I mistook a shy boy for a thunderous one in the days when I lived inside his lungs.
ii. I wanted your hands in the early morning, or in 8 o' clock light. (Does it matter? I just wanted you.) Hands like paper cranes, hands like wind chimes. Then we could've been like lovers in a parody: "I love you, I love youno, I don't. But you are beautiful." And while I was not your lover, neither was I your queen. Either way, you wouldn't hold my heart.
iii. Our fingers would've taken flight and then the rest of us, too. Then you would've known of the ballroom in my chest, the migrations inside my body, of the tiny secret nothings that make their way like monarchsas if by instinct, as if they have been here beforefrom ballroom to piano hands to the museum that is my mind to my stomach. But you are the only lost boy afraid to fly.
iv. I was a foreign land and you would not dare travel without a map. But I do not possess a souvenir shop in which to purchase one. I am a des
you need to have a plan...so here's to
to some forgotten shore.
2. fall desperately in love with
i. the ocean
ii. the sky
iii. the honey sunrise and
iv. the steelgray winter dawn.
soul-deep into the water and
4a. search out the requisite words
i. from behind white and blue curtains
ii. and underneath clam shells
iii. and in the wakes of fishing boats, and
4b. pluck them from the ceaseless
scrawls of sunlight
against the slopes of waves.
5. make time for
ii. and other
my grandmother had a blanket of galaxiesmy grandmother once told me that if i gathered all
the stars in the midnight sky, i could sew them into
a giant blanket of galaxies for lovers to make wishes on.
this is what you do with your hands:
learn the same language my grandmother did all those
years prior to this moment of steam and shake.
come daybreak, we collapse into each other with the
sort of stumbling that my grandmother warned me of.
foolish hands know no boundaries, she would say.
thank God that i am boundless, finding you with probing fingers,
your shoulders a make-shift ladder i climbed to catch
just an inkling of heaven on the tip of my tongue.
if every i love you we whispered
into the gentle morning's ear
brought us closer together,
we would become each other.
folding until we are one:
nothing but a crease of constellations
on my grandmother's blanket.
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