She looked up at me with angry, chalkboard-black octagons glimmering and I felt like stars in a kaleidoscope. Even her eyes accorded to their own strange geometry. She was angular; she was made of straight lines and barbed wire. Her elbows and collarbones jutted awkwardly, too big for her paperbag skin. She raised a bottle to red lips and I wanted to dive headfirst into the cheap liquor. I wanted to be something that she wanted to drink in. She was the type of person that grew her own vegetables and knew the right way to dry tea. I was the type of person too embarrassed to sing at concerts- the type of person that said all of the wrong things in English and only read comic books and looked up the summaries of everything else online.


I’ve been realizing that for the last six months I had been kissing you with my eyes open

that my heart had been routinely beating boring and firm as if sewn to my inside skin with red paint thread

and the ocean we jumped into in January had long since salt-scrubbed you clean outside of me

hazel green eyes left behind

on a marionette that I thought could bleed.

You were the shoes on my ball-and-chain feet

and I am steel wool laces double-knotted wired shut.

I will have those bonfire nights again

but I am not you

I am not an emotional conveyer belt

I can light this driftwood alone

I know the names of my own constellations.

tonight is the dealbreaker, it’s up to you to put your head on my shoulder

i want you to write songs about me, sing them till your tongue bleeds

paper to pencil to fingers on hands on shoulders touching accidentally in the dark

yesterday you let opportunity scrape by like cars on a freight train moving slow

left me sticking my thumb out on the side of your road

you make me feel like a dandelion floating around with lights blown out,

blowing out hope on other people’s birthday candles so I could avoid feeling alone

trying to stretch out time like taffy by offering to drive you home.

I don’t think you are the something that I should fill my insides with

but I can make myself need anything at four AM or five AM and then it’s six AM and we are awake talking about shooting stars and

not talking about how we are sitting three feet apart


(the prompt was to write a short story staring with the words ‘your mother’.)

Your mother could read your face with her eyes closed, as if the worry lines prematurely etching themselves across your forehead formed hieroglyphic characters dug out into your skin. Lately you’ve been feeling made of limestone rather than that usual seashell strength you try to force when things get too hard to deal with. Lately everything, lately life has been too hard to deal with. Pockmarks are indented like braille against your paperbag cheeks, creased as if someone folded you and tried half-heartedly to smooth you back out. Tracks written up and down your arms like a crossword puzzle and only your mother knew how to spell out the six letters that have been sitting on your shoulders for the last eighteen months but for the last eighteen months she’s been gone.

You hope that she’s somewhere where it rains beautifully.

You’ve been counting down the days until you can afford that Greyhound ticket but the calendar has been moving like a zoetrope, revolving in endless indigo circles and continually bringing you back to where you started, a jar of empty pennies every time you feel the itch to score. You think to yourself that it’s kind of funny that it’s called scoring when all it makes you think of is how you are always, always losing.

It makes you think of basketball games you used to watch with your dad before he left, because that’s how your thoughts move lately- back, back before. He used to call you Junebug and he loved the color of your eyes so you would always wear blue. You saw him every other Sunday in his mothball apartment, all tea-stained wallpaper and television antenna gloom. Your eyes were so yellow now, like that wallpaper, like ashtrays and sweat; the bright, violent periwinkle knocked out like broken windowpane glass and boarded up. Lately you’ve been feeling like the shops on 5th and Spring after the riots and looking just as destroyed.

You realize that you’ve forgotten the sound of his voice from before the gravel hit, before the screeching of metal on metal on your poor drunk dad bleeding bleeding bleeding. He would always bring you candy from Chinatown and talk about your mother, the rice paper wrapping melting in your mouth as he moved past the point of remembering that you were listening. You missed the way he smelled, filling the air with maple syrup and discount cigarettes, words falling out of his mouth like piano teeth. Every alcoholic Sunday he admitted to nobody that he still loved the creases on your mother’s nose. It would be another five years until you drank enough to admit to yourself that you had needed him and after that you never touched alcohol again.

The last image that you have of your father is double, red and blue like you were looking through 3D glasses when the glass hit the pavement.

Your mother used to smell like lavender, like sandalwood incense, like midnight piano jam sessions and lemonade hands playing music from the forties. You understood the way that your father missed her because that same part of him was inside you now too, lining your stomach like peach fuzz. You wonder if you’ll forget soon, memories like buttons and sequins in the glass jars above her kitchen sink, interloping threads sewing the holes in your arms shut. Your mother would stay up late with you talking about spaceships and how certain kinds of plankton can give off light, and right now you desperately needed someone to tell you that there are still ways to glow in the dark.

first place

it’s the first day of losing my best friend and
my throat is falling out of my chest
logic tells me that i’ve been through this once before but everything else is used to the cracks over his eyelids-
the hair on his fingers
logic says that i’ll forget the alignment of his nose to his eyebrows but the familiar motions of two years are still pungent like salt in the air in the air in the air
in my open-heart surgery chest
her face and the alphabet letters that make up her name float up out of my soup, past my eyelids and rest somewhere behind my eyes unmoving, unwilling
I know that it gets better, better even than it was but I can’t see it yet
screaming alone in the car on the highway from work and collapsing on my best friend’s backseat with blue veins red eyes broken broken broken in half in thirds in shards, shattered like glass on a wristwatch.
I hugged you so hard when you finally left that I still can’t feel my own circulation underneath your lingering body heat
I have memorized your heartbeat like the names of presidents, of planets, like stars colliding into each other fading out and dying and
I feel like the dust left over.
because as you walked further away from my house for the last time you shrunk smaller and smaller down the street, melting into this pungent oil sprinkled over my couch and my bed and all of my shirts and I
can’t get the smell out with any kind of bleach
and I
think that I know that it gets better and I
think that I fell out a long time ago and I
know that I need to remember to seek out beautiful things like singing on dirty streets alone and little kids leaning out car windows to pet my dog or just the knowledge that this all can pass without having to pass out, without having to check out-
remembering that I can fill the gaps and sew over the holes myself
remembering that my vocal chords can tell my throat to laugh instead
remembering that every day weighs less and less and less
but for now my mouth still tastes like yours.

Now you are in space stations, you are in places completely alien
and I am still stuck orbiting this ring on my finger
while you turn over in bed like I’m just dust
in your atmosphere
But you won’t hear from me every 70 years because
I’m not a comet, but a meteor
and meteors fall in and fade out like tidal waves
For a while you were an ocean and I was the fishing boat,
coasting along the surface too afraid to jump out because
I knew that I would fall in too deep
I knew that I could run out of oxygen on the way back up.

round one

back in stomachache nights, I drowned periodically

dying daily, increasingly, vehemently- until we fell asleep

I have finally forgotten the color of the wallpaper I have finally discarded the wetness on the inside of your lips I can finally open my eyes driving past boy with the highway flower stand

I have finally mixed a new shade but instead of your cadmium red he’s blue and green and I hope that these colors don’t become brighter in the sun.

We have learned to ache openly.

We have learned to open our chests and to disregard that ticking-bomb fear of exposure.

We have discovered the feeling of feeling too deeply and I think the difference between you and me and her is that we can ache openly-

while you fear jaded recourse off of jagged ends

bottle-green mirrors from broken sea glass friends


wait in tree bark stickiness

distract yourself from the icy city air by focusing, intent, on the charcoal scratches aligning the dirt-covered walls

his navy blue graffiti piercing a path through the dust.

too content

the initial hardwood floor feelings of safety within yourself open up unwittingly and give way to a spiritual yard sale

you have moved your head into his home.

you felt like waking up, sick of feeling like the junk drawer and he promised to melt the concrete. he reminded you that you still had lungs and that they still expanded and contracted and that the others might have temporarily stopped you from feeling but they did not stop your breathing

and slowly, strong, viridian green forest blood filled all of your capillaries again, and your nerve endings began to seek their respective places along the inside of your chest, and olive oil warmth filled the empty spaces.