these are the inhaled breaths of a crisp new page in a continued story.
they are not the inception of a brave new world;
this world is not new and I am not brave but I promise you I am trying.
a Degas print.
a kiwi bubble tea.
a blanket on the lawn.
a bus to Walmart.
a boy slouched over coffee.
a walk home in the dark, in the rain.
these are beginnings.
I can taste them and the warm, sickenly sweet taste of this year’s
humid, seconds-long summer
is being rewritten by the subtle, muted flavors of fall,
harvest colors and cool fog.
I am not ready, but I accurately deduced a few weeks ago that ready is
an incorrect concept,
that there is no ready, I will never be ready, I am as ready as I’ll ever be.
I have wanted so desperately to go home,
but maybe this is my home, the home of this newer version of myself.
I will not find out if I abandon it.
this is easier and harder than I thought.
this is real life and someday this pain and awkwardness and frustration will be useful to me.
I have wanted the chance to reinvent and I have stumbled in the attempt to do so.
but there is only one self.
it is fluid. It is afraid. It is trying.
all in all this could have gone much worse.
I am thankful for small things.
a covered bike rack.
the voice of a friend.
I am terrified, and I am still trembling.
but I am moving, nonetheless.
I catch a glimmer of the radiant cloak I seek to fold around me
In the amber eyes of a girl with sleek, dark hair that I envy
Even though the crown I seek to grow from my decadent skull
Is short and messy,
Blue raspberry and lavender lilac sunset,
Candy pink haze and the dark ethereal green of pine forests.
My own hair lays limp from the roots
and then corkscrews into straggly leaves of copper and birch bark.
I carry words on the tip of my tongue at all times and sometimes they
Violent or harsh or rich or flat and sharp like a metal blade,
Never indicating what wounds they will inflict until the damage is done
To my fingertips and the deeper recesses of my heart.
Sometimes the words get stuck down there,
But the strangers who find their way into that labyrinth don’t even know it,
And so never get to witness the raucous wars that must go on.
There was a blue beat-up bike sitting in (my) parking spot
But he found it and so rather than consider it stolen I laughed,
Feeling the melancholy of a laugh that would not be shared
Because my memory is stronger than my lasting impression.
Maybe when I can grow a flower crown of artificial summer sweetness around my head,
Frame the fickle moss of my eyes in colors that startling do not match
the reddened irritation of my fragile milk-white skin, the bumpy dots
And charcoal pools of fatigue under my unadorned eyelids, lashes short and see-through,
Maybe then I’ll be the one who feels a light tap on the shoulder
Instead of hurrying on these stubby, tired legs to catch up.
This entire city smells like my grandmother’s house:
The pungent, familiar odor of cigarette smoke,
Hazy gray rings floating through the air lazily,
Like they were here and claimed the atmosphere before I ever arrived.
Secondhand smoke and its malevolent dangers cross my mind quickly, erratically,
Like the pedestrians jaywalking across the corner of West Main and Cherry Street,
Undesired but ultimately ignored for the more pressing matters at the next intersection.
I am comfortable here, and as far as I’m concerned, it is better to die of a familiar comfort
Than alone, in the place I inhabited before this and constantly pour myself into the streets-
With their throngs of chain-smoking art students, working class citizens, vagrants and even professors-
I am never going to get the pain out of my veins
but they are never going to see me the way I want to be seen
not even the hazy painful version of me
because the anxiety’s too deep and I’m drowning in insecurity
and because none of this
is as pretty
as they tell you it’s gonna be.
did you hear me? listen:
none of it. is romantic. like you think it’s going to be.
I convinced myself that your presence was
robin’s egg blue
saltwater taffee and the blue-green waves, too
lemon yellow sunshine on a gritty dark room,
filtered through grimy windows of devastated viewpoints
that I’d wash just for you.
the reality, I’m told after the selective amnesia,
was more like cigarette smoke
inhaled by a fragile girl with weak lungs,
a promising prospect frayed at the edges when held too close,
a weed masquerading as a flower,
a cloud moonlighting as the sun while the moon sat just right
on the horizon
bleeding through the patches knowing the pane would stay dusty
for a while.
but sometimes I still catch a whiff of smoke and pinecones
and I swear I can smell the briny air and feel the sand grains in between my toes.
sometimes I still glance up at the moon and know that was part of you, too
even if you were mostly cloud-
temporary and only bound to rain.
there is truth in both stories: I’d like to believe
that sun can shine on ashy alleyways
and maybe somewhere moons can hold up solar systems of their own,
burst into stars by some fluke we cannot comprehend.
well, bad habits don’t look like good ideas nearly so much anymore-
wildflowers have not made me swoon for a long time
and I stopped searching for the sun and strung some electric lights in my heart.
part of me is still stuck in that spring and I’m still waiting to get it back-
for it to catch up and hurry along, release its grip on the full feeling and accept
that that is not what alive feels like anymore
and there’s got to be another way.
maybe I’m supposed to curse every moment that I smell rain in ashtrays,
see blonde curls and squeeze my eyes shut as the memories wash over like a wave.
maybe I was supposed to find a dark head in the crowd and move on right then and there.
here’s the thing-I did. I have. I am a new girl in a new place in a new world and I only keep on moving.
but whether or not it’s supposed to be this way
I have not felt anything so strong as that spring and I cannot let go of the notion that something is missing.
I know by now that it is not you.
but I still pause every time I read a line of dialogue that sounds like your humor,
or hear a song I’ve heard sung in your voice
to wish you well.
to curse you, sure.
but to beam you hope in the next breath.
and to wonder how I am supposed to make myself feel that alive
I cannot write the words in front of you
but they’re there, bleeding from my paper-cut tongue
as I kiss the books that-I almost forgot-were my first love.
I am the only one who never has a novel on hand
and I cannot decide if it is because the dog-eared pages
are what I once used to bandage my burns
and I am afraid to walk on crutches ever again,
or because I am afraid that if I do not hold these words in the front of my mind-
bleeding out quickly, like overripe berries smashed on the pavement,
stained red on my palms, too sweet to swallow-
they will never reach quite past the tip of my tongue.
a single quote absorbed could jeopardize the whole thing
and I am not ready to choke on half baked poems, stale characters, and crumbling plotlines,
and see a year’s worth of idle thought go to waste.
either way it is because I am afraid to move-
forward or back-
but I’m fairly certain that if I tried to explain,
most of you would stand perplexed:
"but don’t you know the art of reading sideways?"
I used to.
I cannot write the words
nor can I read.
the problem is rooted deep.
but I swear for a second
your smile illuminated a library
so many poets personify themselves in ways I want to get away from-
crawling, running, dancing, dodging, any way I can.
I don’t want to be
or a hurricane
or a tapestry you can unravel
thread by thread.
I can be a flame
and a spark,
and I can bellow thunder.
there are people whose fingers can pull me apart
and separate pictures of the past sliver by sliver
but I am the weaver and I will always remember how to put my memories back together.
I am not out to set you on fire
or douse your own.
I just want to be a person.
and sometimes being a person feels like other things-
sometimes I feel like a sun or a moon or a meteor headed for my home planet,
and sometimes I feel like a river current or a gust of wind or an exhaled breathe,
sometimes I wake up like smoke and fall asleep like a torrential downpour,
and sometimes I live like a bird and sometimes like a sloth and sometimes like a lion-
but I am a person.
sometimes I want to move into the house of words
that a favorite poet of mine once described,
because I do not fit here well enough
but even I have to recognize that people alone have the power to build that house
flimsy as a house of cards
or strong as a steel skyscraper, depending on your tone or flow or diction or state of mind.
but I am a person
and I am not the words I put on the page.
I am not the ink or the paper.
I am not the metaphors I dream up.
I am not the things I compare myself to-
they are reference points, descriptors, not an identity.
I used to identify to closely with dark skies dripping ink like blood-or blood like ink,
and with brilliant flames flickering in the shadows and bright red roses with thorns.
it got me nowhere and I will have nothing to do with it anymore.
I am a person.
I am words, yes,
and I am thoughts and feelings and actions.
people say actions speak louder than words
and words hurt more than sticks and stones,
but regardless the impacts,
I am significant parts notions and emotions and motions.
I am the girl I put down on the page,
but I am also the girl dancing and thinking and watching and listening.
I am a poet-that is laced into my bones.
but that is not the total sum of myself.
I am a poet.
but I am a friend
a caretaker and a sister and a mentor and a writer and a dancer and so much more,
and I am also just a girl.
there is a hurricane inside of me sometimes-
and all the other kinds of rain.
there are sunsets and flowers blooming and dying.
there are chards of ice and trees growing tall
but they exist within the landscape of myself.
the earth is not a single grain of sand
nor am I a single simile-
nor a single poem
or even a single collection of poetry.
I am every word I’ve ever written and so much more.
I want to get away from this identification of metaphors.
I am done believing myself to be a storm.
storms pass and clear skies are born,
and I have weathered it all.
these words form when I lean back into the fray of action and remember that I am a part of it.
the observations are reflections that come later.
I will run or dance or walk or fly or fight until I get to a place where I can just be
in my house
on the weekends
waking up late
in the mornings
who just so happens
to write poetry.
a Surrealist once described
Frida Kahlo’s work
as “a ribbon around a bomb.”
that is the way i feel right now.
i wish i could form my own lovely words,
but bombs do not have patience for poetry.
you’re not even mine
and i promised myself a long time ago-
in cold blood, walking my neighborhood alone
like a crazy homeless person,
until my mother finally found me shivering by the roadside
struggling to put one foot in front of the other and make my way home
my face soaked in tears and my hair a mess,
with empty eyes and empty hands-
that i would not ever think of myself as belonging to someone again
because the bitterest pill is to realize that you were unwanted all along;
but i cannot help but smile at the thought
that i have known you this long and still find you around,
and maybe that means i have some claim over you, after all.
i know these thoughts are poison
seeping into my veins and grinning smugly because they know
that i will never again allow myself to bleed out the toxins that circulate in my system.
i know that i am no more entitled to your presence or care
than birds are entitled to safely land on electrical lines,
and that you probably think of me about as often
as the stars are known to shine in suburbia-
seldom, and faintly, if ever.
but one of those poison thoughts coursing through my bloodstream
was lighter fluid,
and God only knows that I am something of a pyromaniac.
i am a moth
and you are the flame
and i know i am doomed
and i am afraid to decide whether or not i care.