When I was younger, it terrified me
To look at the universe as some brutal, uncaring thing.
I expected it to be organized and meaningful
Like all the little quirks
Mom expected me to grow out of.
(Neither I nor the universe
Ever lived up to expectations.)
I don’t worry over fate quite so much, anymore.
Now I find a sort of comfort
In the idea of a chaotic, unknowable cosmos.
It’s like realizing
That the prison walls are cardboard,
That the steel bars can crumble in my grasp.
Maybe there is some unseen structure to it all,
But maybe there isn’t.
Maybe it doesn’t matter—
At least, not the way I thought it did.
One of the greatest gifts you ever gave me:
A rain-soaked afternoon
Digging through a shoebox of broken crayons
Spinning the stories in my head to their first willing ear.
(But not their last. I swear to you.)
Gentle eyes and complete conviction
as you tell me,
“I bet you’ll be a writer one day.”
A dozen more stories like that
Branded on the parts of my mind
That drag me to my early morning classes
When my comfortable bed warns against it.
There is no thank you card for that.
Prepackaged, Hallmark-branded sentimentality could never hold a candle to it.
My life’s greatest mystery:
How to thank someone
For being a catalyst to some of the best parts of you.
But I think I’ve finally figured out the answer.
Maybe I’ll tell you about it one day,
On the acknowledgments page.
A beautiful thought of wisdom born,
A crack in the Great King’s head,
A beauty born with brilliance and strategy.
Even with great powers, jealousy still appears.
The creator of the deadly spider, an animal made out of spite,
An owl as her symbol, books as her comfort,
A sword at her hip for war is always possible.
Intellect over rage, for with blind rage
No one truly learns.
Little white snowflake falling from the sky,
Little white sparkles falling on the curls.
White flakes hanging from the lashes,
Light blue eyes watching the gray clouds go by.
Watching the little white snowflakes falling all around,
One, Two, Three, time to fall down.
All the little white snowflakes acting as a bed,
Nice, soft, and very cold.
Little white snowflakes falling on the pale white skin.
The smudged and abstract set of jaws
Hangs half open with the weight of teeth.
The crude body curls into a cruder spiral
Perhaps a tail, perhaps a shape undefined,
Tightening in on itself until it smears
Into shady gray. Already the decay starts.
You will not last. Your time is short,
A distraction made in minutes and set
To die a careless death in days.
Permanence is a flight of fancy to you,
Immortality a concept impossible to grasp.
A sweep of a hand could wipe you away,
Without even a memory left to hold you.
Were you worth something? Did you
Provide to the hand that so callously,
Thoughtlessly carved you into the world
Some small fraction of amusement?
Some minuscule joy? Or were you
Made and abandoned in the same
Tiny shard of time, a work orphaned
Before it could even hope to be art?
A hand hovers over you
But you do not have eyes
To see it with. Hold your breath
And wait as I consider you.
But I do not wipe you away.
You exist, for some time more
Is that a kindness
Or a curse?
Fiddling with a small lighter in his hand,
Sliding his fingers through his ghastly white hair.
His cigarette rests on a shiny red ring which graces
His harsh, red lips.
He is lost, struggling to find himself –
Brown eyes gazing upon the dark road,
He finds himself lighting his fifth cigarette.
Hand resting on the leather gear shift,
So begins the long drive down the highway.
Accompanied by her best friend Captain Morgan
And his favorite chemical –
Electric pumpkin hair blows in the breeze.
Down the 20 she drives,
In no search for a destination,
Chance encounters happen every day,
Opposites attract, as do similarities.
Clashing and meshing,
Like a puzzle piece.
That girl, that boy,
An opener on a bottle cap,
Cold ones drunk,
Injections into the veins,
Munchies and a craving for shitty Mexican food.
Telling stories of adventures
Thought to have happened,
But now never will.
Eyes redder than the blood
Flowing through their veins.
Bags under their eyes –
A lighter color than their lungs after the first pack.
They tried finding themselves,
But only found each other.
Their bodies unable to carry the weight of love,
Addiction setting in.
Destruction of themselves,
Their love for the substances
Tearing them apart from the inside and out.
Maybe if they had met,
They wouldn’t have turned to the poison for love.
Could this have been me–
This girl seated here
Before a blue backdrop,
Hair parted to the side
And a headband like a tiara,
Shiny, youth-blue eyes,
Skin smooth, cheeks rosy?
She has a smile
With brace-straightened teeth;
And starting life.
Months after graduation
I sat in the studio.
A straight-haired woman
Placed my arms
Across ebony folds of fabric.
I can hear the flash of light
And feel the stiffness of my arms.
I look at the girl in the photo,
Innocent and young.
I don’t remember her
Do I know her?
Is she still me?
Can I recollect that girl
Should I let her stay behind?
If I told you once
I loved you–
I don’t think I foresaw
A life held back
Against a cold hard wall.
You suffocated me
With sparkling chains of words
I tried in vain to embrace.
I was grasping at an empty vessel
Of half-meant hopes and dreams,
And ‘almost like a dream’ meant
If I could not catch my breath
From running aimlessly to escape.
A young woman’s escape–
I leave a trail of breadcrumbs behind
As I run out of the monster’s howling lair.
You carried me away
From the truth of a thousand lies
And wounded me with blows.
The skin is thick on the scars
You dug into the mental flesh
Of my blood-stained heart.
The places you struck me
Will heal with the falling snow.
Ring off finger
And flung away.
My finger can bend again–
I was numbed to the bone
From hypothermic waste.
I flung open the bars
Of the prison in which
You held me.
Your heart’s key–
I never meant to unlock
I threw the key away
Somewhere in the garden,
As drifts of white
Danced in the solemn breeze.
You denied me life
And pushed me inch by inch
Into a living grave.
I was a foot deep in mud
Before I hitched myself up
And braced my feet against the wall.
I won’t say it was easy–
The grips at the bottom
Were hard to cling to
And you were there holding me down.
I made it anyway
Your smug face shuddered
And collapsed into itself
Before the smoke cleared.
That smile was a dream
I attempted foolishly to keep.
As the flames of your fire
Scorched the meat
You had me cook for you,
The bonds of female servility
Were already crumbling
At our feet.
As you held me down sweating
Against tear-streaked sheets,
I watched the window open
A crack to let the wind in.
As you pulled away and stood
At the door beckoning me to follow
Down the hall of portraits
Of faces smiling in false confidence,
I leaped at the chance
To fly out the window
And baptize myself in
Melting banks of snow.
You can swing at me again–
Your broken dagger was
Never too sharp anyway.
I won’t be hurt again
By untended wounds.
When spring comes,
I will run barefoot
Through the woods
With the sun beating down
And the wind following
And never back again.
Laughter pierces our silent night
As we explore
What lies beneath
Its ebony canvas.
You groan at the abundance of clouds
But I still spot scattered stars.
Warmth surrounds me as
Our fingers tangle together in loose knots.
I begin to melt into you—
But your hands are ice
(That’s why they’re shaking).
You tighten the knots and
We joke, tease,
Laughter replacing tension once again.
This time our faces inch closer,
Close enough to see
Sparks of dread, desire—
Begging to erupt.
Afraid of lighting a fire
We can’t control,
Reverting to a practiced posture as
Frigid as the air enveloping us,
We hide behind each other’s uncertainty,
Letting the radio talk for us on the drive home.
My toothbrush now scrapes
Across gingiva and enamel
While my mouth is left wondering
How these words
Swallowed in fear
Would taste in your mouth…
Just a sip—
That’s how the addiction began.
They said it’d fix everything,
An elixir for my inhibitions.
I was passed an overflowing glass of something
And I eagerly downed this liquid god
To atone for the sin
Of being boring.
Happy medium? Too mundane.
I’m only happy living by extremes
And now my happiness is attached to
An extreme buzz
With lows just as intense.
Maybe it was the regular blackouts
Or the sleazy boys who got too friendly
Or that time I vomited for two hours
While the world was spinning like that toilet bowl—
But I slowly realized my judgment had been flushed away
Long before my nausea.
As I walked away from the glamorous lifestyle
Of underage drinking,
Once-friendly chatter faded
And soon the loudest thing around
Was my own footsteps.
In their own coded dialect
They screamed to me—
Sobriety might be boring
But if it keeps you alive,
It’s worth it.
I didn’t argue—
Now I just keep myself busy.