7-29-2022 // RUIN IT BEFORE THE FIRST BITE, YEAH, okay. okay. alright. okay.
and you ask the question,
the one you know you shouldn’t—
the one that’ll hurt,
the one that’ll scar,
the one that’ll leave you gasping for breath
and unable to move for weeks,
the one that could break you forever.
but the answer
leaves something to be desired—
a pause, then a rushed response
that’s longer than “just in case”
but that hurts, if at all possible, a lot worse.
and you want to follow up,
with something like
“well, i won’t bring it if it’s bad,” or
“but do you think it’s worth it at all,
even as just a ‘just in case’?” or
something that’ll hurt worse to say.
but you don’t say anything at all.
you get in the car, and
hold the dessert in your lap,
and try not to frown.
you try not to give in.
you try not to care so much.
and it just hurts,
to feel this way, all while
trapped in the sticky jaws of the heat
and unable to cry. it just
hurts, i say, but there’s nothing
else to say, now is there.
and all i’ve got left
is a tiny whisper of breath—
no courage behind it,
not even an ounce.
no apologies, either. just
beat myself up over
all the little things,
crawl inside myself, fold
into my ribs
(like well-trained acrobat)
tuck my head and face
behind pain-riddled hands,
push and push and push, willing
the pain and self-sabotage away
AWAY AWAY AWAY—
but neither leave.
and i turn round and round
in this crooked, gilded
bone cage, until
my eyes peek out from
behind my spine,
wide and bright and glassy
among the bone,
watching the world
from beneath a landslide,
the b-side of things—
and, wow, is it dark.
it is bleak.
i read every word backwards.
sdrawkcab sdrawkcab sdrawkcab.
i breathe through
the gaping hole
in my chest,
and expel it all
through the windows in my skull.
i cling to the bars of my cage
and watch the world
through pale flesh, rewound.
i see music through
bloodshot, sleepless, sunken eyes.
and i in no way interact
with the outward world,
except to breathe backwards
and press faster
on the rewind button.
“you’re every car that passes by/everybody in the corner of my eye” (off my mind, joe p) // i remember the good times and the bad ones, too
the afternoons were always
blue-green. the mornings were
always a young, summer type of yellow. the
evenings, they were
the orange of the setting sun,
the black of the coming dark night,
and the yellow of the lamplight
and your bedsheets.
i still remember the sounds of the birds
and the way the carpet smelled before
you had it torn up and replaced
with that white, fake-wood stuff.
i still remember you
singing to tom jones,
the grease on the table,
the way you made me mac and cheese,
the way you made me ramen
that i still can’t get perfect
and it bugs me that i miss the way you made it.
i still remember us looking through boxes of movies
and finding the best ones
and watching them while my uncle was at work.
i still remember our walks
and helping you water the plants
and helping you pick the oranges that were really mandarins
(i still remember you correcting me).
i still remember dog sitting with you,
and you sneaking me yorks,
and showing me around the bathroom of the neighbor’s house.
i still remember that halloween
that i dressed up at your house
and we went to the neighbor’s party.
i remember us going to the post office
and checking out the bookcase
of free books together,
and going back to your house
(back home back home back home)
to read them together.
i still remember all the good times
and the bad ones, too.
i still remember the summer i lost you
and the letters i wrote to you
in green and blue pens.
i still remember holding onto the movies we’d bought before
the summer i lost you,
holding on to them and hoping it was enough
that you might want me back.
i still remember all the days and nights and mornings i cried
that summer i lost you.
i still remember the three weeks before my birthday,
just after the summer i lost you,
and how you’d said you wanted to see me.
i still remember needing to take a breather
the night before the fall you lost me,
and a week before my birthday.
i still remember looking up at that midnight black september night,
and hearing the frogs in the canyon croak
and the mountain lions roar,
and sitting in the bed of my uncle’s pickup,
crying alone in the almost-cold warmth.
i still remember how you found me, and hugged me, and cried,
and said that i’d come back and it’d all be better.
i still remember that i came back,
two years later,
and it wasn’t all better.
i still remember the good times,
and the bad ones,
and i still remember all of the plans
written in my poems
and i still cry
because they can’t work
while i still love you. and even if i thought
i’d ever stopped, i never did,
and i don’t know
how i will. because i still remember
all of the bad times, but the good ones, too.
childhood, like captivity
ache for it
like a bird
when when when
when i was younger
we would play monopoly
in the late-afternoon sun
on the greasy table
and make ramen and grilled cheese
and the old dog would lay at my feet
and i still see those days
in my head, so often still
and i wonder if you remember them, too
or if you were drunk then
and can’t recall my laughter
or our little jokes
and my bones feel too tight
at the thought of this
and my hands begin to hurt
and my heart burns like it’s on fire
and i feel like if i don’t cry i’ll just explode
and i feel like if i don’t let go that i might lose myself
but i doubt you’d know how that feels
and even if you did
we still couldn’t relate
not like we used to
(if we even did)
’cause the sun comes up
and you smile and nod your head
until the rain comes along
and you retreat to a crowded house
to forget about your sorrows and mistakes
in a bottle of beer
with a tall glass raised,
you make jokes
and i hand out empty smiles,
hope to forget
how it used to be,
only so i might let go of you
because of what it‘s become now
forget it all and wish
we could relate
like we used to
(but even then—)
(did we ever)
so i do my best
to blend myself away when
(find i’ve bled on the walls)
(but you don’t even notice the drip)
(but all the others do)
can’t breathe when you’re around,
can’t talk like we used to,
can’t hide my rain like
i used to
and i wish
that i could forget
all of the good times
where you were probably drunk
or high or whatever you might have been
so that you can’t remember
the little jokes
and the sound of our laughter
and the way things used to be
and the way things’ve turned out now
i wish i could forget it all
like you forgot me
(without a care)
(without even a goodbye)
(i’m bleeding on everyone else)
(just trying to keep you close)
(so now i’ve got)
(to let you go,)
(to let you go,)
(to let you go)
when i drop it, what glass will shatter (what parts of us will bleed?)
tw; blood, injuries, drinking mention
motivated by the
crushing weight of
the possibility of failure
it rings like bells toll
in my head, pulling and
pressing against my
skin (all consuming)
(let go and pulled back out)
CRIPPLED, BROKEN DOWN,
spilled all along
all the things i’ve been
trying to protect
from all my mess
stars blinking out
(am i drawing away)
moon dancing round and round and round
(am i pulling back)
wish i knew
when you’re drunk
and when you’re sober,
when you’re stoned
and when you’re stone cold sober,
’cause all my dreams have you
slurring your words,
dancing drunkenly around,
spaced out and in a funk,
but the truth is,
i never could tell the difference
and not with you.
any difference that another points out—
anything my mom says, ‘yeah, she was drunk then,’ to—
just looks like a normal you
and what does that say
about all the things i miss
in my nightmares she and i and you and him and him, we all
sit around a table. her table, with the
thin layer of grease along the top, with the funny smell, with the memories.
and she’s drunk (but the kind of drunk i dream of her being—
the one she apparently never is) and you sit next to me.
we’re eating with steak knives.
and she rolls her head to her shoulder
and she says my name. and she asks me why i loved you more
than i ever loved her. and then you reach over and you stick your bloody
(bloody from a steak i don’t see, bloody, bloody, bloody) steak knife,
you stick it right into my hand. and i don’t scream.
i don’t look at you.
i watch her.
and she’s crying and i’m crying and i can’t see and then she’s
screaming. she says that i ALWAYS loved you
more than i ever
and i wake up
and i can’t breathe and i’m clawing at my bed and i
can still feel your knife in my skin and i
can still hear her voice and i
can still feel you next to me and i
and i’ve been running and running
this whole time.
pulling back and taking that
sprint for a
finish line i can’t see.
i record my beads (22)
and all the nightmares
and all the pains
like a doctor on the outside. like someone
looking in, but
all from the
and my friends and family say
“why don’t you come out and play?”
and all i say back, as i duck my head
and set my pencil to the paper, is:
“i’ve got a lot of homework to do, mom, dad, friends, people.”
and i haven’t written much.
i haven’t drawn much.
i haven’t gone to therapy this summer.
i’ve gone to sleep well past midnight since, you know,
probably since the middle of april.
i’ve got to brush my teeth (the dentist says to take care)
(of myself.) i’ve got to exercise (my body says to take care)
(of myself.) i need to eat (my body says to take care)
(of myself.) i need to stop eating (my body)
and my dad said he’d prefer it if i dropped my summer courses.
and my mom said i only have so long to be a kid.
and my family said that i should have a summer.
and my friends said they want to talk and to hang out and to see me.
and i’ve got a lot of homework to do,
but my body (and my parents and my family and my friends and my dentist)
said to take care
so i might just do it.
april // a wild thing inside the heart (absence) (not like this)
i feel your hands
coming from my own,
even as they
touch my face (and linger there),
feel you like an
absence, like an
echo, like a
you’ve been gone and you’re gone and you’re
you are going
—the kind of empty
that pulses through your chest,
echoing through all the
and i miss you like
(growing out of people)
(things and music and loves)
(books and smiles and)
and i miss you like
(memories barely there, anymore)
(the love still strong, but like an)
(i’m not quite all here)
how have you been doing? they ask.
i’ve been thirty-seven days with zero beads, i want to say.
i’ve been hungry and i haven’t eaten in hours, i want to say.
i’ve been feeling so empty and i can’t fill myself back up, i want to say.
i can’t stop seeing accidents in front of my eyes, i want to say.
i can’t stop envisioning death, i want to say.
i can’t stop i can’t stop i can’t stop, i want to say.
just a little tired, i say.
i hope you all got some rest and recharged this weekend, my teacher says.
i grin across the room to the other students,
as if this secret we’re all in on
is a good one to keep—as if it’s
something to be proud of,
to have so many sleepless nights
and early mornings.
these voices in my head
trap themselves in the crevices of
my mind—they come out to play,
preying on the weaknesses,
until i cover my ears with my
hands and close my eyes, shout
as loud as i can, “SHUT UP,
SHUT UP, SHUT UP!”
and i hold off the tears,
fold my heart back into my chest,
and say, “IT’S FINE IT’S FINE IT’S FINE I’M OKAY, YOU KNOW?
CAN’T YOU SEE I’M FINE, I’M SO
FINE, I’M DOING SO WONDERFUL!”
(i forget not to yell)
march 29th // worms and snakes and bones and head and music and time is going so slow, so fast. i miss you. i love you. can we talk?
and it’s already nine pm,
in ways that feel unnatural.
the songs—one minute,
two point five,
three minutes long, at most,
reads spotify—last mini lifetimes,
each ten, fifteen, twenty
minutes a piece
(pulling me through time
(like i’m unwilling)
and the breath in my lungs
feels held tight (breathless) in steel hands
disguised as ribs (as lungs) i feel like
stone. encased. there resides a snake in my
stomach (and is it me?) is it me?
can you feel it, feel this snake as it writhes,
can you feel it when you reach for my
soft belly (skin and flesh and blood and organs) like
a stranger reaching for
can you feel it, honey?
and who have i become,
with eyes trained on the blood,
with eyes searching for the open spaces,
and do i want to know who she is,
this girl who looks for these things,
who sees these things and doesn’t look away?
and is this really blood that
pools in my mouth, hangs over my tongue,
or is it in my head
(is the pain radiating from my jaw
(the pressure of the weather—again—
(or is it in my head, too)
“seventeen goldfish,” i say. “you could fit
“seventeen goldfish in your pelican’s mouth, i think.”
(the snake is vicious) (it writhes) (i miss the sound of your voice)
the cereal is dry in my mouth (like cotton)
i feel like (clown in clown car)
(in the place where you’re supposed to fit)
(but you don’t, not really, not anymore,)
(not with this snake. not with your bones.) i’m driving
but i’m not sure
who will be there, when i
arrive home—if anyone will be
i think i’m afraid of driving
(can hardly even sit in the passenger’s seat
(anymore. with the way i’ve become so
(scared. see the truck crashing into us, mom,
(even as we turn onto a new street
(and drive far away from it? don’t you see it, too, the way
(the cars turn towards us, engines louder and louder
(as they come closer—don’t you feel it, the way the metal
(splits your skin? the way the glass
(carves you up? because i feel it. i feel it.)
(i feel it.)
i miss the sound of your voice. the way
we used to speak. now, hardly every time we do,
my skin crawls. (i love you.) i feel bright green worms
press up against my skin. (i love you.) i feel the bright green worms
dig and bite, dig and bite—dig and bite. (i love you.) i miss
talking to you. (i love you.) i want the bright green worms to
go away. (i love you.) i want the snake to
go away, too. (i love you.) i want my bones
to stop their aching. (i love you.) i want to stop
being afraid. (i love you.) i like the sounds of this music, the way it
i like the way the sounds
push at my bones, push
at the snake. i like the way
they suppress the things i
feel and think (until they don’t)
(until they last) (for far too long)
i like the way i almost feel normal,
normal—like my bones don’t
hurt, like my skin doesn’t
feel so bad, like my head doesn’t
feel so awful. feel so small.
(i miss you.)
and it’s ten pm already
and the time has gone so fast.
writing this felt like
whatever fifteen plus twelve minutes
march 27th // starting small
there is a tightness in my chest,
pulling spine into the ribs,
collapsing self from inside out
(remove the old leaven)
(the leaven of evil)
and the hollow aching in my
bones makes me feel brittle, feel
young and old (“it feels so scary,
getting old”), feel left behind and
lonesome (work the old out)
(fill in the gaps with Christ).
the bread is beginning to mold.
i’ll do what i can / to drown out the / negatives with the / positives, // to be able to write / these poems again / (i’ve missed you)
and things became better
and things became worse
and things became better
and things became worse
and i didn’t write at all
for what seemed like months, like years,
until someone told me to fill my sponge
with so much positivity
that it drowned out the negatives
and i could write
(as much as i used to,)
(as often as i could)
february 18th // we are in space (like childhood) (with our blind and brilliant trust)
and hold still,
(a silent yank of this tether
in the pitch-black starry dark
is the only sign that
you’re still out there)
there is the
unsteady thrumming of my heart
sounding in this small bit of
paired with the aching plea that
it echoes (after) (before) (with) yours
(i miss you) (the sound of your voice)
(the way you spoke to me) (your slick-beat-forth smile)
and as ironic as it is—
as i always used to doubt it, even
with you so near—
there’s this wild, burning, blind
that you’ll pull me back to shore,
back to safety, back to home,
(back to you)
overwhelming, this ache of a
blue-black night is—
bitten lips bleeding lavender anxiety
and pale blue-pink
palms sweating nerves and hasty words—
like thick smoke through lungs,
or ancient memories in your head
of times and peoples you’ve left far behind
i’ll grab your throat in my hands,
gentle and suffocating,
and tell you things you’ll think are stupid
(if i ever own a pig, i’ll name him percy)
(i miss you and i feel it in my bones like growing up)
(sometimes my chest feels like the sky—gaping wide and long, burning everlasting)
then i’ll let you go, folding my
hands tight to my chest (like childhood) and
take a big long breath (split the air with the gaps i leave behind)
and hold it as i wait to see
whether you stay or leave