Bits and Pieces

Polaroid5

I know the things you know
before you know them.

How there is a wholeness to love,
a sometimes painful surrender of
the tender bits, the gory bits.
The pieces you hide in still, quiet rooms
inside of your chest.

But I know that quiet can break as easily
as bones can, that wholeness is a
rather overwhelming idea.
I know that you cannot imagine
loving anyone or anything
that much, that you are afraid of sinking

down
down

­­­­­­­­­­­­into that warm, unfamiliar place
where I wait for you,
holding these bits and pieces under my tongue.

I let them dissolve,
let them turn into chemicals,
let my blood carry them to my heart.
I let them take root,
and there,

with you,

they become something  they never were before.

Teeth

Polaroid3

This quiet, lacking house. This open mouth.
We are always tripping over teeth, scattered
by the doorstep. Clean up your young years,
your mornings of lingering, longing.
I am already awake.
I am already wanting to be the sun. And you leave
because there is no place for you here
in this little room where I am forgetting your name.
Lying in this room, in this lacking house
that grows smaller by the day.
I settle into bed
and forget I had teeth to begin with.

Poker

Cards

It’s the bold bluff,
the over-the-shoulder sly smile,
the look back,
the bottom lip bite.

It’s the touch that aches,
that burns,
burns
burns
with chests pressed close,
a card deck flush,
an ace in the hole.

It’s the hands gripping at white sheets
with knuckles white,
the shedding of skins,
bottom pair,
bottom set.

It’s one pair,
aces,
the zipper rip,
the low moan,
the fold and forfeit to roaming fingers
knotted in sweat-soaked hair.

It’s the morning drag light through the curtains,
the numbing gray,
the downswing of a night
laced with liquor and
intention.

It’s the double draw,
the stale silence of two bodies
both asleep and awake,
the air made thin by
uncertainty.

It’s the dealer’s choice,
the King in your palm,
the Queen in mine.

This Is Who You Are

Celebrate

This is who you are right now. You are not lonely, but you are alone, physically. You spend your nights by yourself in your quiet room with your quiet thoughts. You spend your days waking up late and not regretting the wasted hours. You go to work and think about going out. You go out and think about coming home. When you are home, you think about going to work. You drink wine out of coffee cups and smoke too many cigarettes. You cut your hair too short and you fall in love too easily. You are trying to find the secrets inside yourself.

Though you have become accustomed to this unfortunate cycle you continue to crave the company of others. You think, “This isn’t getting me anywhere. Someone else can try their luck”. And so, right now, you are at a party. The sort you go to after you have graduated college, and a couple of your friends are married, but no one has any children. At least not yet. You do not own a house. You cannot afford to buy anything. You try to pretend that your education has bankrupted you but, in reality, you are just doing a bad job at being an adult. You like to believe that everyone else is as well.

You should not know everyone at a party. Parties should possess an air of mystery, excitement. But here you are, wearing these clothes, with this hair, and these eyes, and you think that no one notices you. And why would they? You are flanked by two beautiful blondes from your 10th grade European History class, with legs for days, their matching frocks floating around their knees. You are such a little thing, next to them. For a moment you wish you could fold your heart up tight and slip it into your pocket with your loose change. That way you would not have room for feeling obsolete.

But you have discovered other avenues for self-validation. Writing song lyrics. Stealing library books. Leaving scrawled notes at places where you have spent the night. In this case, it was an unguarded bottle of champagne. You never quite understood it, but you secretly loved the subtle vulgarity of drinking from the bottle. The way the glass neck dangles from your clenched fist, the shocked stares of people who automatically, and absurdly, conclude that you are an alcoholic. You drift through the kitchen and into the backyard, Veuve Clicquot in hand, and resume your rightful place as the token introvert. You think that no one notices you. But you are wrong.

A boy waltzes over to you from across the grass. He seems not to have a care in the world in his immaculately tailored suit and pristine pair of Oxfords. He stands casually next to you, hands in his pockets, dark eyes flicking between the party and your face. You feel his gaze but refuse to acknowledge it. There is something to be said for barricades and fortresses, and you pride yours on being higher and stronger than most. However, there is also something to be said about the power of curiosity, and it is for this reason that you finally meet his eyes, eyes that said, “I will wait for you, but don’t take forever”.

You realize that you know him in a nondescript way. A friend of a friend. You hold out the bottle in your hand, a peace offering, and he takes it gingerly. After a sweep of the house, neither of you can seem to locate a corkscrew. It is not funny, but he makes it that way. “Socializing is easier when you don’t think about it so much,” he said.  You ask for the bottle back, as though you know some alternative and impressive method for opening these things. Then, without thinking (as per his instructions), you take it and break the neck over the edge of the stairs in the backyard. Just like that. The boy stands there for a moment, horrified.

You are so stunned by your own negligent behavior that you do not know what to say. You stand there, mute, clutching the decapitated bottle, hand soaked and sticky from wasted champagne. You expect him to walk away then, but he does not. Instead, slowly, he begins to laugh. Soft at first, then building to a booming crescendo, hands clutching his sides. He drapes his warm arm around your shoulders and looks at you with unchecked tears in his eyes. He looks at you, not through you, as though he can see all of those secrets you have been trying so desperately to find. And in that moment you realize that you know next to nothing about yourself, and the way that things are supposed to be. But this is who you are. This is who you are right now.

To Be A Ghost

Garland

Sometimes, I feel like I am a ghost. I lean against door frames and observe in silence, fiddling awkwardly with the hair at the nape of my neck. I watch as people talk, laugh, embrace, kiss. I know that they can see me, and I them, but it is different. The seeing is different. It is like viewing life through a lens that is out of focus. A boy in front of me is describing his study abroad in Italy: the exquisite colors of the Sistine Chapel, the mouth-watering dishes, the archaic culture.  But my eyes continue to drift to his cheek, where he possesses one solitary dimple. My gaze moves to his mouth, where a crescent-shaped scar is set slightly above his top lip. As he speaks, as he smiles, I do my best to feign attentiveness, but all the while I am focusing on that dimple, that scar, the way his nose crinkles when he laughs.

I wonder if he knows he is handsome. I hope not. Boys are far more interesting when they are unaware of how handsome they are. In a moment he is gone. I think, he left so easily. I wonder if I should apologize for my wordless nods, my apparently not-so-subtle disinterest about his adventure overseas. But I do not know what I could say other than I silently fell in love with his dimple, and his scar, and that I am swallowing my words. I am swallowing my words like they are painkillers, and yet there is still an ache lodged deep in my chest that I cannot ignore. A fire that burns in my lungs and travels up my esophagus, so strong I can taste smoke on my tongue.  I am choking and on the verge of transparency, I could say. But I will not. I will lean against the door frame and observe this life, this party, through my faulty lens.

A boy in front of me is saying my name. I like the way he says it, soft and low. His mouth is moving, pink lips pressing together. I say nothing, listening to his voice roll around, his voice laced with recollections of flesh on flesh. I wonder if he knows how much I think about him. I hope not. Boys are far more interesting when they are unaware of how much you think about them. In a moment he is gone. I think, he left so easily. I wonder if I should apologize for my listless sighs, the way my eyes steadfastly avoided his. But I do not know what I could say other than I silently fell in love with his voice, that I wanted to reach into the air and catch those sounds, hold them fiercely in my arms, squeeze them tight. I knew that if I swallowed that voice the burning would subside. Even though he does not want me. Even as he climbs into bed with a girl whose body is delicate and warm, a girl who is no ghost.

I am short of breath with words, words that are fluttering beneath my chest but are perhaps not yet ready to fly, I could say. But I will not. I will spin myself a web in the corner of the door frame and watch people put themselves together; watch as they fit into one another. Observing from the door frame I see the crescent scar, the pink lips, the stains of wine on laughing teeth, the light in the words all around me. I see these fragments, slight and beautiful, and I fall in love with them all. I fall in love with them through the lens of a ghost, a shadow who fits into no one.

The Spell of 3 A.M.

The empty bottle spun on the linoleum, the sound deafening in the silence. One flask full of whiskey and two forties later and there we were, sitting cross-legged on the floor of your lamp lit kitchen in the early hours of the morning.  We laughed loudly as we fermented in the sounds of British pop, the smell of stale beer and sweat.  Around 3 A.M. your eyelids drooped low; your body slumped to one side. I shoved you awake and you grabbed the hem of my sweater, pulling me down between the gap in your knees. You told me about all of the times you had been in love while I was folded up in you. As you spoke I watched the lines of your face, the creases in your forehead. You were happiness and sadness all at once, and I wondered if it was possible for me to feel that sort of love when I was always so content with being alone. I was grateful for the cold that morning, the way the air stung the back of my throat. For as much as I wanted to be near you, I wanted to escape from you.

I needed to be out of that room, away from the empty bottles, the static of your old stereo, your sheepish, drunken smile. Away from your bed where we slept, clothes on, the line of friendship between us faint but ever-present. I wanted to leave the could have’s and should have’s under your doormat next to your keys. I didn’t want to change, for our lives to shift. And yet, as I made my way home in the dim light of the morning, a pang of regret began to pulse through me, a disappointment so strong it ached in my limbs.  I stopped abruptly, waiting for the feeling to fade. For one agonizing moment I had the urge to follow it, to reach out and grasp it, to turn on my heel and return to your bed where I could slip silently under the warmth of your covers. But the cold and darkness were familiar, comfortable arms that held me close and whispered bitter sense in my ears, and so I kept walking. I kept walking without another thought of you.

A Wild Thing

I often wonder what it would be like
To be a wild thing.
To feel the earth under
The pads of my feet, the give of soft soil
Between my toes.

To be a wild thing,
To seek solace in the hoarse whispers
Of the forest while elsewhere
The teeming world roars.

To be a wild thing,
To possess a primal heart, a desire
Untamed and full of teeth,
My voice a desperate growl.

To be a wild thing,
To absorb the caustic winter in my bones
To collect the shadows of summer
Beneath my skin.

To be a wild thing.
To be safe and warm inside
The winds that blow
My breath a faint hum
Resting on the pines.