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Attention Must Be Paid

 

I can’t remember the last time
I woke up
and the world wasn’t terrible—
and this is my privilege,
me, a white girl
who’s never had to run
from bullets, who won’t
take the late train
home,
who always parks
under a street light,
and carries keys
as a weapon (just in case).

Me, a white girl
who doesn’t
have to be afraid
to wear a black hoodie,
to have a broken taillight,
to sell CDs,
to hold a toy gun,
to buy cigarettes,
to exist.

I can’t remember the last time
I woke up
and didn’t want to look away
from everything. Instead,
I make myself look,
watch, take note,
speak up
even though it hurts—
this, too, is my privilege.

I am not under fire.
I am not someone
anyone is afraid of
for arbitrary reasons.

Too many men
eat fear like candy.
Instead of teeth,
it rots souls,
seducing them
into action, greedy
as any addiction—
don’t let it win.

Do you hear me?
Don’t let it win.

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized, Writing

all your best monsters

January 18, 2016 Leave a comment

First, you will pull your heart
out of your chest, feed it
carelessly to any wolf
that wanders by. Then,
you will fill that space
underneath your ribs with stars, a universe
so vast that it makes you
feel small inside your own skin.

You will begin to live
like a warning shot: all noise
and suggested danger,
no lasting heat.

Second, you will learn to lie
with things other than your mouth,
but your hands will keep
telling the story of your gone-heart,
wanting to break
every window, every clock,
every failed confession
until the pain sets in again,
feeling so much like relief,
a flood of otherness
that spins the absence
off kilter.

You will lose your breath
like an old arsonist: lungs
tarred with regret, fear pocketed
for safe-keeping.

Third, you will stop coming back
to this doorstep, even as you
return and return, harsh
in your routine, this practice,
this pretending, this dark—
it’s no match for this alarm,
its disclosure a wail
for the safety
of what is wild, the lips
of all your best monsters
begging to be kissed, intimacy
flinging itself against
your sanctuary
until you see it for what it is
in all its broken glory.

This is your warning
to get out
while you still can.

This is your reminder
that age doesn’t matter,
that nobody’s safe,
and that hearts are not harbors
where love is kept still, moored
and neat. No, that universe
between your ribs
is the chaos of new star—
and you are a constellation
of everything
that has brought you here.

That old wolf
is just your head, all teeth
and tricks. You may believe
you will never again
find your way home, but
what if
what if
home begins
here?

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized, Writing

a band-aid for this bad heart

November 27, 2015 5 comments

I don’t want to be gone
but that’s what I am:
an empty coffee mug,
a house full of old silence,
a ghost-filled parking lot,
arms and bones
shaped by the word without.

How did I get here?
This place where there’s too much
blame in my blood, where
I’m sure I’d fly away
if it weren’t for these
bricks of doubt
around these clay feet; now,
even my heart
refuses to beat right, a reminder
of everything’s that matters
more than I do—
sometimes grief echoes,
and the sound is worse
than its origins.

I made this
with my own two hands,
but it’s gone monster
and it intends to swallow
every one of my limbs,
and sometimes (don’t tell)
I consider letting it,
because giving up
seems to be the thing to do—
tell me
how many broken miracles
does it take
to make one that’s whole?

You don’t know
what I’ll do next, and that’s
a problem. You were
what kept me
from burning down
this house, with me
still in it. Now, maybe
I don’t care. Now, maybe
it’s time to stop
swallowing the flame,
to let the new undoing
push out the old, if only
to recognize
everything holy that hurts,
heart like a wafer on a tongue,
I’ve always been
a melting woman.

But in the end, it isn’t shame,
never regret, never wished-it-didn’t-happen,
no, this devil in my heart,
it’s grief. It’s adding up
everything and finding the total short,
it’s not getting to see your face,
it’s a goodbye by proxy,
it’s the flashbacks,
it’s not enough.

These walls, this war,
this want, the cruelty
of losing. You were so much
brawl, so much fight, so much
courage, so much strength.
When did you lose the word
for love? When did you turn
your back on hope? When
do you misplace the power
of forgiving yourself? When
did you sell your fierce
for something dull, something else?

We were so open, once—
tell me how to pretend
it never happened. Offer me
a broken dam
for this willful river,
a band-aid for this bad heart,
one kiss I don’t have to send back,
one moment
that doesn’t corner me
as an accident; be unapologetic.

Categories: poem, poems, Uncategorized, Writing

between the lines

July 7, 2015 1 comment

I ask the easy questions: how are you? How has your day been? I talk about the storm, the lightning, prattling on about work. As if that’s really what I’m thinking about. As if I’m not wondering about your hands, your mouth. As if I’m not trying to say I miss you in a thousand different ways, but the words vanish when I open my mouth. I’ve gone soft. That is to say, afraid. That is to say, silent.

I don’t want to be the one who says it again, first. The silence after leaves too many scars. And I’ve gotten really bad at waiting, but I don’t say that either. Instead, I ask about work, if you’re ready for what’s ahead. I know the question has more than one meaning. Neither of us acknowledges the wake of it. You give me the easy answer, but I hear the way your voice dips, that half growl. I picture too many things and begin to stammer.

I wonder what you’re thinking – how loaded is that shotgun in your heart? Do you hear the bullet in my teeth? Every now and then, it whispers: you’re going to have to swallow eventually.

.

Categories: poem, prose poem, Writing Tags: , ,

Uncanny Magazine’s Content Is Live

June 2, 2015 2 comments

Darlings, the second half of the May/June issue of Uncanny is up, for free, on the magazine’s website. So, if you wanted to read the rest of the content (YOU DO), you can. In particular, if you wanted to read my piece (YOU DO), wander over here: http://uncannymagazine.com/article/from-the-high-priestess-to-the-hanged-man/.

I hope you enjoy the magazine as much as I did. Every piece is absolutely gorgeous, and I’m beyond grateful to have been a part of it. That poem is especially close to my heart, and I’m so thrilled it found at home with Uncanny.

Categories: poem, Poetry, Writing Tags: , , , ,

miracle

March 13, 2015 1 comment

There’s still mud on my shoes
from the last miracle – a reminder
that things grow
in a mess, that to be real
is to be undone, drop
by drop, heart like a river
in a rainstorm: wild
but honest.

Your chaos is sweet,
a whirlwind salvation, love
that comes with a laugh
and the kind of smile
that is its own secret –
this isn’t luck
but I am lucky.

There are no locks
between us, just fire
and the way
our hands fit like keys,
you look at me
how spring turns the flowers,
and this is magic,
no ceremony, only
sanctuary.

This is a blessing,
all kisses and sacred hips,
water to wine
in a single afternoon, bodies
bent toward joy, an affirmation
that love is always a familiar skin,
and I want every inch
of everything, no holding back
and no hesitation –
I’m leaning in,
and so are you.

Categories: poem, Poetry, Writing Tags: ,

honest monsters

December 5, 2014 Leave a comment

Something always
goes wrong, and we end up
here, lost in a language
made of rain boots
and untied shoes, leaving
the windows open
in winter, boundaries
earned in inexplicable ways –
I’m a postcard girl,
always so close to leaving,
always wanting to stay.

But here we are:
a man, a woman, a coward,
a moon – an easy study
of separation, inherited thorns,
and something that calls itself
relief when it’s really flight
we take turns ripping out the garden,
guessing at what might’ve grown.

If you put me on a scale,
I’ll weigh no more than a photograph –
the idea of something, a memory
gone gray around the edges,
and this story is old
but repeating, feelings
so bright they’re bleeding,
heart an unsleeping
crime scene –
okay, yes: I miss you.
So, what?

There’s only ever one train
to this city; we both live here,
we’ve both left, and we always
come back, carrying words
like new pennies, kisses
like vanishing points, full
of last spring and everything
we’ve yet to learn, convinced
there’s a new bravery
in place of our spines, that ruin
is not our only gift, that love
may not be the first sin
but it is the last,
and this is war
and this is peace,
but I believe I can hold us,
so, give me the stars again
and I’ll give you the keys,
fear dissolving in light,
let’s invent new ways
to become who we already are.

I was born
for this, hands open,
heart full of ugly gods,
honest monsters –
I am always, but you
are not sure
how to love me, your
body a surrogate
for fear, but it’s time
to lean in, skin to skin,
shut the windows
and begin, watch
what I can do with my hands –
sometimes yes
is the answer to all questions.

Categories: poem, poems, Poetry, Writing Tags: , , ,