you are furious and grieving and the books you loved as a child sit dusty and still on the shelves.
you bury yourself in older tales, colder
(Persephone, pomegranate juice dripping warm from her fingers; Eurydice, lost)
hands shaped like claws over your gut
and eyes leaking seawater.
there is a truth in these stories, like there is truth in all stories
(how it feels to be in love or alone or winning or failing)
but these truths are better suited to life after death.
I think sometimes about all the growing up we do at funerals
about my cousin with his sad eyes, square-jawed, black-clothed
sober as the prince of Denmark,
determinedly staring down ghosts
about the too-loud hyena laughter of people you’ve met once or twice or never,
and the empty, sweet-sticky bottom of a cup of coke,
and shoes that you bought for the occasion, that you hate, that pinch
about rooms filled with the chemical-sweet scent of cut flowers,
beautiful, bright against the mourning weeds and tweeds of the gathered mob
and about the people and the flowers, all dying together.
it felt like stumbling into a screenplay—
the dim yellow light of the kitchen,
my bare feet on the dirty linoleum,
my curved spine in profile as I bent over the kitchen sink
muffling my sobs into my hands.
Nobody ever told me that growing up meant crying alone.
If this is my coming-of-age movie, I want out.
If this is how I find myself, I’d rather stay lost.
I’m always leaving my things around
crisscrossing streams of clothing and pens and half-full cups of tea—
I leave a trail behind me
like I’m hoping somebody will follow me home.
I look at you in the slanted morning sunlight and my eyes trace the curve of your back.
My fingers do not.
I have memorized the half-moons of your fingernails
and the sound your lips make when they part
but I know that you are temporary.
You are temporary like a planetary alignment is temporary,
like the subway ride with a celebrity is temporary,
like singing the best song of your life is temporary.
You are temporary like a moth dancing in the flame is temporary,
like the last full breath of air before you sink is temporary.
You are temporary like all beautiful things that must die are temporary.
You are temporary like the moment of perfect balance on a fence post is temporary,
like the burning of a falling star is temporary,
like the taste of coffee on your tongue is temporary.
You and I are doomed to die,
and what lies between us will die sooner than that.
The best things in life do not last forever.
I’ve heard people use the term “vomiting your feelings”
like fear and anger and pain are things that reside in the stomach, to be thrown up or shat out.
I feel that worry in my heart and in my lungs, anxiety like a grip around my chest, constricting, squeezing,
until I want to reach inside
and grab hold of my ribs
and snap them open
(like a fetal pig on a high school biology table)
and watch everything fall
On the days when I hate my breasts, I hate, too, that they are paler than the rest of me—
white like the fish’s underbelly,
like soft and vulnerable things.
I like her.
(Like, that peculiar term, said helpless and smiling, with the same particular emphasis given by gently teasing middle schoolers— I like-likeher.)
How can I resist?
I like her because she is fascinated by penguins and coos over baby anythings; because she gave me a glove when it was freezing; because her laugh is not lovely but contagious.
I like her because we lay on the floor of my room staring at the ceiling like stargazers, and I offered to cut through 17 ceilings so she could see the smog, and she laughed—
I like her because she crawled into my blanket fort after me, folding easily, and told me a story I’d never heard—
I like her because when I told her the tragic story of my best, broken mug, she reacted with the appropriate horror and sympathy—
I like her because whenever we walk together the wind presses at my back, whispering go on, go on.
I like her because she is so delightfully, deliriously human.
I like her because she asked me; I like her because she kissed me; I like her because she likes me.
(She like-likes me.)
I am not a predator.
I have no need for fangs
or poison claws.
I do not hunt.
I know one thing well- how to run, and when, and where.
I am not ashamed.
Wolves and deer
both die, eventually.
The deer, at least
does not know the taste of blood
until its dying breath.
I am not strong.
This is not an insult.
This is a fact.
I do not fight.
We place such value on standing ground
and holding on-
do not forget that just as important
is knowing when to leave.
I am not ashamed.
Roots deep in the soil
mean safety and strength,
but wind breaks branches
and carries leaves.
There is nothing shameful about survival.
The wind is howling outside.
The wind is screaming and crying and whipping through the trees
battering on the windows
and screeching through the streets.
The wind is moaning like a madwoman
and I’m here, with you, tucked under the sheets.
(That’s how you know I love you.)