SALT

My skin is crawling and the hairs on my arms are standing up
reaching towards a distant grey sky.
Massive white flowers oppress the stems they grow from
and suffocate everyone else.
My days are twelve consecutive sneezes
that push me backwards
and before me, the worst dog in the world is getting his belly scratched.

I spent the day trying to skip round rocks on rough water
digging holes under fences that have gates
sending letters without postage.
It’s not depressing, it’s exhausting
and my mind has strayed so far from my head I should just find a new one.

Little does anyone know
somewhere in the unintelligible mess I have a collection of people I love
and a box full of guilt
because all I can do is toss a lasso around their stupid little bodies and try to pull them in
while they scratch that mangy fucking dog.

THREE WORDS

Your apartment was dark and oppressive
I hid there while the hockey game played on the radio;
the tray slowly filled up with our ashes while I adjusted the antenna,
white noise interrupted by punches to the face
lost teeth, black eyes
sharp blades scraping fresh ice.

I took my glasses off to make you worthwhile
you grabbed my wrinkled tshirt with a strong fist and lied.
Your words fell like leaves in autumn;
beautiful dead ends that you would then crush
between your fat black shoes and the cold winter sidewalk.
I was smart enough not to believe you
but naiive enough to listen.

We were a crappy breakfast
sour yogurt and burnt toast
and I was a starved kid craving attention.
I don’t really care about you anymore
but I’m still hungry
and perhaps that will insult you enough.

VENICE

My body is numb
and slung over the wooden rail of a bridge on the grand canal.
My mind is waking up while the sun,
mild and white
falls asleep behind me.

I am; not in the past nor the future,
not floating nor sinking,
held in the hands of the eternal.

Somewhere in between it all I become the air.
A slush puppie blue sky
and silver water I slip into a sigh.
The light of the Salute sings among silent pinks and wooden pins;
life is illuminated, born from the tides.

I inhale and my breath skims the surface of the water
as the electric air melts the tears
that were frozen in the greys of my eyes.
The sky is kind and clear; the only sound I hear is rain.

It’s like wearing slippers,
like birthday cards and california gold
I stand before the moment we’ve all been waiting for.

This dusk turns chaos into legend.
The future is put on pause and
love is present,
hidden in the crows feet of old men
and the scared, laughing, beating hearts of young.

My mind is a record,
scratched and cracked and stuck on the word unconditional –
everything is an echo of itself.
Now is soothing and constant,
immediate and moving.
Gravity is a myth, stillness a fallacy
and the earth forgives my sins.

VALENTINE

oh dear sweet
salty are your wounds
and sacred is your laugh
which falls and leaps —
a yo-yo in a practiced hand,
your laugh is

Run about and tell the world that
you don’t love a soul,
throw your kite in the air
and make your laugh bounce when it falls —
twenty five cents in a pinball machine,
your laugh is

oh dear sweet,
red will be your wounds
until you let your stunning laugh fall to silence —
bite down on your leather belt
and stitch yourself up.

Then, someday your heart could rule your head.
You could defy gravity.
You could fall until the sun has set and never hit the ground.

LIFE

What is silence
if not an oasis
in the dry, skin cracking sands of sound;
where sentiments that were left in the sun
can quench their thirst
and grow into reflections, into thoughts,
into ideas that have the power and ability to grow
not out of necessity, nor desire,
but out of existence and instinct.

And what is darkness
if not the sponsor of light and color
the ally that gives yellow it’s power against purple,
green its riches, red its blood —
and if sky was orange and earth blue,
our weight would be greater
our nature, stolen.

REALITY OF AN ENIGMA

it’s six pm and you haven’t done shit
cleaned your nails all day
when you checked the weather
you decided it was too cold
and too busy out there.
safer to stay in, you thought.
safer to get those nails clean.

one day last week you went out,
you said it was great
sent a picture to your mom,
got a tattoo about it.

how’d it get to be six pm already
you said to your short orange cat,
who always looks suspicious of you
and refuses to eat anything except “cat fancy” tuna.

you put your dinner in the oven
and didn’t hear the timer go off
thanks to the high volume
of a low lit crime show
in combination with your general dullness.

at seven pm you rushed to the smell of the frozen pizza you managed to burn black,
tapped a slice on the counter a few times to watch
what was supposed to be the crust
crumble into ashes on your plate.

SEASONS

There’s nothing like spring’s first bright dose of sunlight
pouring onto pale, deprived skin
to make a kid feel beautiful.
I couldn’t help but watch the outline of my hair
dance to draw shadows on the sidewalk.

That’s the most telling sign of spring;
when the sun shines strongly enough
to make the cast shadows
more crisp than the leaves
leftover from fall.

But maybe roughing the cold weather is best for us;
if we didn’t have to face the winter
and our own demons
we wouldn’t sprout in the spring with our wings spread,
ready to conquer the things we don’t know yet.

My best friend told me she wants her life to be a constant warm bath
but I thought eventually, she would just turn into a big raisiny-prune
and her fingernails would float away
and she would freak out and move to the desert.

The winter gives us a reason to barf rainbows in the spring
and keeps us from shriveling up.
It gives us something to despise besides each other.

POLLUTION

We all feel it.

The breeze is tainted yellow; anxious.
Every breath allowed us is shallow and short
and our heartbeats sync to the stiff, screaming air.

The moon is heavy and full at noon,
and the trees have become larger and more still
as they surround and confront us.
Something morose and magnetic dictates our movements;
it drags our flailing corpses to their graves.
We’re weak dogs on strong chains.

It’s a frantic, desperate search for clarity
and in our panic to find it
we dig deeper into the growing piles of dying leaves
as the dark rises on our backs.

Our hysteria becomes our hibernation.
Together, we return to our beds alone;
we all feel it.

RECYCLABLES

I’d like to bury all my clothes.
I’d give them a grand tombstone
with fancy bevels and deep inscriptions.
I would forget the flowers, dismiss the grave,
and no one on earth would mourn them.

I’d be impossibly nude
and I could cleanse my soul and wash my body.
I’d scrub my skin so clear I could watch the deep red
silent, tragic blood run through my veins
as it drains my lonely little heart.

I’d bleach that blood and spill it out
to remove old scarred skin stains and sad stale memories
and once I’m clear and smooth and free

I’d fall in love

redden my heart
scrape my knee
toughen my skin
cover it up

and repeat.

KEPT

You sleep
black and red
on the devils bed.
You’re spiteful and cute,
because someone cut your horns off.

Your inconsistency files at my nerves;
my hair is growing a million miles an hour
and my ends are splitting at the same pace.

My knuckles scream to be cracked and my feet shake
pitter pat on the tile floor, far-away in southern france
and you don’t know what to say.

I tip my chair forward and back
forward, back;
carefully tracking the time you take to respond, or not.

We could both use some clarity.
I was confused by the dirty, direct lies you let slip
and slither into my hand while you held it;
you never thought I was beautiful.

I don’t want to complicate things,
but I don’t hate you.
And perhaps I’ll keep you forever
fondly
in my growing, glamorous collection of regrets.

CAT CALLED

I dress in layers of stealth and sweaters on summer nights
expecting to encounter a stammering drunk
who lost his ability to feign respect three drinks ago.

Every time I hear a voice from one corner of the city
or another
my bones shudder and my lips cringe
and I hold my temper like a child’s hand
because I don’t want to lose it.

I like to be alone on late walks home
each step narrated by the dull roar of the city at night
but I am interrupted
and forced to interact
as an implied subservient
and the civilized thing to do is ignore it.

But he is uncivilized.
And realizing this makes me want to stoop to his level,
forcing him to feel uncomfortable
to show him that women won’t be victim anymore.

I could use the same vocabulary
I could spit vulgarities back into his face
that would be stone cold and white,
shocked at obscenities spilling out of the objectified lips of the objectified body.
He would be astounded to know that we aren’t actually objects
that we do, in fact, absorb every word thrown at us,
that we hear him and we don’t want to hear him anymore.

I’d like to tell him to bite his tongue
and if he tries to speak again
I’d like to confuse him
and counter his conventions of thinking.

Or, for a less cerebral approach
I want to stomp on his shoes over and over
until his toes fall off his feet
as easily as his words fall off his tongue.

My mother taught me to let people taste their own medicine
but my brother showed me I have weak biceps;
I raise my middle finger like it’s my national flag
and I start lifting weights.

WHY THUNDERSTORMS MAKE MY BODY FEEL LIKE ROCK CANDY

The 3 o’clock fog transformed into a blue black sky
and the rain played my window like a snare drum.

The sky lit up so brightly I could see it through my eyelids,
I could feel the thunder dictate the rhythm of my heart.

I was caught up in the romance of it all –
the mist was seeping in through the window I forgot to close
and the world was cleansed of the scars winter left behind.

The clouds were inconsolable.

Raindrops clung to the window as long as they could
each catching a little bit of the neighbor’s orange-yellow porch light
and while I watched them slide down the glass,
I wished that I could print the pattern of the rain
onto a fresh blue button down shirt.

I missed the sunset and walked in the dark.
I splashed in puddles to soak my shoes.

My feet were cold
and I felt waterproof.

My hair was ratty
and my eyes were dry.

AFTER EVERYTHING

Your personality stinks,
like farts and chapstick mixed
into the stale, stagnant, predictable
air you carry with you.

I can’t get warm around you;
even in my finest fleece sweater,
even with my favorite knit hat,
even hidden beneath a million down blankets
that I will never share with you again.

I stopped taking ibuprofen in 2010
because I thought I could develop a tolerance to pain.
And it worked – sticks and stones are harmless now
except for sticks and stones like you.

I wonder if there is value in being vulnerable
or if fragility just makes me cheap.

ANT HOUSE

The ants came in a hundred at a time.
They crawled through a cracked wall
and in through my ears.
I can feel the folds of what used to be my brain falling,
being reconstructed to accommodate their tunnels.
They have built a kingdom there,
and sometimes I don’t want to see you
because the part of me that needed you
got eaten away.

I tried to poison them out,
to kill them before the damage got to be too much,
but they stayed and I just ruined myself.
I can’t fight the devils anymore
and I wonder if I should surrender my body to them;
maybe my soul is real
and maybe its not.

CALENDARS

I knew that my shiny new smile would be smothered by the time November rolled around.

It was the month where everything green froze over into a gray mess of melancholy,
and bombarded us with rumors of the return of the swine flu.
The month where there was no one to turn to,
because everyone was turning into themselves.

People used to think that the rats that couldn’t navigate a maze were the dumb ones,
but it turns out they’re just the scared ones.
I wonder if the bravest rats are smart enough to make it all the way out of the lab,
and I wonder how many of them are fed up with science.

December made me think about how I’d like to live only on berries
and the mercy of strangers.
I’d like to trust the things I know least about,
so that my disappearance will be attributed to naivete
rather than cowardice.

Now we’ve fallen further to the first month,
wound up with whispers of fresh starts and fast fixes,
but still my new year’s neurotransmitters could use a kick in the teeth.

I need some firing-up in the dilapidated lump between my ears, so
I went to the doctor for a big ol’ shot of dopamine,
but he told me I should start swallowing some off brand benadryls.
I had to tell him I’m not allergic to the world
I’m just too in love with it.

I think I’ll just switch to a multivitamin and sit tight ‘til spring.

ON CHILDHOOD

All the artifacts of my childhood
are stuck, velcroed to the earth
or ironed on like a patch to my memory.
They litter my skin in the form of scars and discolorations,
they are experiences remembered at inopportune times.

They sank to the bottom of the creek,
that wound around the secrets of my favorite trees
that drowned me into make-believe bliss,
that I remember every time I try to convince myself
not to have a destination.

They are hiding under colorful comforters
ready to remind me of the fort we made
that felt safe, like not even God could see us.
All your jokes were funnier there,
because I knew you weren’t about to give me an indian burn.

They are the times when I feel inadequate,
when I am brought back to certificates of participation;
backhanded compliments.
Awards for trying but not succeeding,
while you brought home trophies.

They sneak out of the box of raisins on my shelf
that smells just like the pantry of that old house.
Rosy-cheeked from coming in from the cold,
sitting by the fire and trying to decide whether that huge plant
was fake or just very healthy.

They are the times I’ve refused to believe in love lasting
because it would make me think of hiding
in sleepless panic, past our bedtimes
listening to them shoot like bullets on a battlefield
whisper-yelled words that we hadn’t learned yet.

The artifacts of my childhood
are the scars that remind me that I can be brave
and wreckless
like Eve wasn’t tricked into taking the apple,
she just liked to break the rules.
Old photographs and broken promises
and I’m not a child anymore.

SELF LOATHING AND SELF ACCEPTANCE, ETC.

Broken nails host my chipping polish,
and my shirts are caked with mistakes in permanent paint.
The floor beneath my bed is littered with things,
and my sock drawer, unsorted.

I’ve broken four mirrors in the past year
and I’m not sure they were accidents.
I’m growing my hair as a curtain to hide behind
but it’s heavy and it weighs me down.

In one of those broken mirrors I glanced into my own eyes,
and if they say the eyes are a window to the soul, it’s because the body is it’s cage.
I’ve been told to love my body,
but its covered with pink, puffy skin that cracks in the cold.
Maybe Maybelline can fix my face and lengthen my lashes;
erase more than surface stains.

Cold feet and a cloudy conscience wake me
hours before the sun will start to come up,
and I stay awake until I start to wonder if it will.
I’ll put on some socks and sleep tight to songs of sex and suicide
and in the morning my body will refuse to rise with the sun,
while my eyes welcome the light.

COTTON SHIRTS

You knocked on my door that night
because you wanted to knock me
off my wondering, wandering feet.

You wanted me to tell you that story you like,
because the person I am
is a novel one to you.

It was never real,
you only did it
because we’re all different when we’re away from home,
and you wanted proof.

I have been in love two times and once was with the idea of you.
You and your perfect, worn, cotton shirt that hugged and hung from your slippery shoulders,
it’s thin stripes wrapping around your body.
Maybe I was jealous of that shirt;
you took it everywhere you went and you never threw it away,
despite the fact that it was tired of being stretched and stressed in the elbows.
Or maybe I never really fell for you,
maybe I fell for that shirt that showed up at my door that night
and welcomed me with its soft, sweet, sleepy-time aura.

I was silly
to think a shirt could love me back.

SOMETIMES

Sometimes I am a rock.

My erosion is constant and immeasurable but invisible. I catch the water and offer the earth protection from its sweet, sweet, salty neighbor – a sacrifice that I am bound to make. My strength is as sincere as the glimpse between lovers when their eyes sparkle just before their lips meet and their hearts sink into the deepest moment of a soul. I take the earth as my host and I hug it and touch it in all the places I can so that it will not forget me, and I let the sea abuse me and wear down on me because I love her too. And I let the wind tear the waters from my skin to quench its thirst, and the fire is determined to consume everything but me, because the flames are in love with the idea of boundaries.

Sometimes I am the sea.

I don’t realize my own power; I destroy those who might love me, but only because their words are insincere and I know their lies slither off their tongues like loneliness seeps out of my vast soul. Nobody is hungry enough to digest me – if only the earth and sky would take the time to understand all of my darkness, they could understand the high I bring to the shores in the tides and the bright light foam that I throw up. I have moments of calm and moments of secrecy, moments where I myself feel naked because I’ve been turned upside down without my permission; but I hardly think permission matters when I can’t I can’t see my destination or my most vital guts. That makes me scared of myself.

Sometimes I am the sky.

I hover peacefully or I spit on everything beneath me – I borrow because I haven’t the audacity to steal. I am in love with all the things I touch and so I am honest with them – I gently kiss their cheek or slide my whispered message from their fingers, toes and nose to their soul by way of their brittle silent bones and they awake in time to hear my wrath, and feel my absolute loss of control — but they know I will always return to them with a humble request for forgiveness. I weep my sorrows beside them and invite them to join, but my sorrow cannot go on forever because I feel responsible for their joy.

Sometimes I am the densest woods,

and I am overwhelmed by the fact that I am constructed by multiple versions of myself which I have created. But because I am dividual I can host anyone and everyone as there is a me for he and there is a me for she; and for each he and each they I am designed to give way so I can become the product that you need; and from my roots I will grow so high and so slow to become something that I know I was not.

And if I am the moon I will rise and set a different shape each night  because I am consistent in my inconsistency. But I know I don’t have time to know myself because I am much less permanent than all of these things — so I watch the water spray up against the rocks once more and let myself be.