you are standing in a curbside graveyard on a foggy morning
it is ten days before christmas
you have never been so cold in your life
so that cold that you can feel the frost creeping over your fragile bones
you forgot your gloves so your knuckles are stained
the same pale, icy blue as the winter sky
rain from the heavens that mourns your innocence drips onto your cheeks
a murmured prayer of thanks to whichever ghosts or angels
are listening for disguising your sorrow from your best friend
she meanders through the rows of worn marble graves beside you
her fingers brush the wet headstones
as you walk through the downpour
she whispers the name of the departed as you go
when you ask why, she tells you
that people die twice
once when their heart stops beating
and again when their name is spoken for the last time
you can’t say that you agree
you feel as though you died that night one month ago
amidst the frigid mountains and fresh snow
yes, your haunted heart still forces blood through your veins
but have you truly felt alive since?
paranoia has made a home in your aching head
glancing over your shoulder and searching crowds
for that dimpled face that stalks you
in the nightmares that are more like memories
have become second nature
oh, how fear makes prey of us all
you imagine that you can feel his hands
under your rain jacket, and shiver
at your best friend’s imploring look, you say i thought i felt a ghost, on my skin and then, as you tremble once more like a tattered white flag in a storm i think i’m getting hypothermia
the two of you leave the dead, but the past follows you home
i never felt safe with you
i’m over it, i’m over it, i’m over it, i’m over it.
here is love, laid out like a picnic blanket on a summer day:
it is putting all of your parts, all the puzzle pieces that make you up
into the cupped hands of someone else
praying that no matter the weather, they don’t drop them
and here is the truth about love:
you are fierce over everyone but yourself
how many times have you bared your teeth and flashed your claws
for someone who didn’t deserve it?
and how often have you let others rub salt into that painted red wound of a mouth
when i know you are itching to speak your mind
spitting out biting words like hot coals?
i myself am meek
i do not have the heart to draw a knife on anyone but myself
or to kiss another man’s girl, no matter what you have been told
but i believe that i could be courageous for you
inspired by rumors and on/off relationships and wanting you since last october. i know you said that you don’t want to be anything like your mother, but darling, between the neglect and the haircut, i see no difference.
dear god, i ruin every pure thing i touch
i took something young and tender as a peach bud in spring
and made its hands and teeth yearn for flesh
almost kissing, almost killing
i was as white as the pages of my mother’s bible
before he showed up
now i only pray to the satin-clad goddesses on the dance floor
and communion means french kissing under streetlights
being loved is like cupping fresh summer berries in your palm
it’s warm and it tastes sweet but when you hold on too tight, it bursts
and your skin, once so clean, is stained with juice like blood that never washes off
father, forgive me, i should have stayed in heaven
you can love a mortal, but you’ll have to go to hell to keep them
and is it worth it, for one night of peace? well —
i’ll tell you when the sun rises
one day, my friend asked me what i looked for in a person. i considered the question and spent a great deal of time trying to figure out what someone would have to be like to make me love them forever. in the end, i simply came up with a list of things that describe you:
– you were kind to me when i so desperately needed it
– you understood my anxiety without me having to say a word
– you calmed me down just by being near
– you were smarter than me, which was new
– you never mentioned when i didn’t eat, but you always had chocolate chip cookies in your backpack for when i needed them
– you knew what my wounds were from and didn’t look at me any differently
– my favorite thing about you was that when you laughed, it sounded like birdsong
i lived with you for only two weeks during the worst summer of my life, but it was enough. i have never shown my heart to someone so quickly. all the afternoons spent wandering through the woods, lying on the sun-warmed brick plaza while watching the stars, sitting on the porch and revealing one puzzle piece of our lives at a time — i will cherish them forever.
i fell in love in the forest. now summer is gone and so are you.
you should know, i kept all the gifts you gave me. the leather bracelet dyed red as blood, the rocket with remnants of fourth of july glitter stuck to the inside, the handmade keychain made of twisted purple, blue, and red plastic strands; and so, so much hope.
when i hear your name, there are two memories that come to mind immediately. there was the night when you took my anxiety from an eight to a five just by sitting next to me and pressing your scraped up leg against my trembling one, and the evening when the grass around us turned slick and crimson with blood in an instant. there was a knife glinting in the twilight before your cursing filled the heavy, humid air.
i never told you, but that night you spent in the hospital after passing out in your own blood, i didn’t sleep at all. i sat on a picnic table in the dark and cried like it was all my fault while the blood dried on my skin and in my mouth and on the concrete at my feet. no matter how long i showered, i could not wash off the blood, or the guilt.
whenever someone put their arm around me or offered a tissue, i just shook harder and choked out a sob about how none of this would have happened if it weren’t for me. we would be sitting by the lake while the sun set; instead, i was so anxious that i threw up my salad, and you were forcing down pills while a doctor slipped a needle through your slit skin.
tovah and candy gathered me on their cabin’s moss-covered porch after your oldest brother drove you to the hospital. they’d known you for years, they told me, and the boys in your family do dumb things when they’re trying to get a girl’s attention. sometimes that means seeing how many barbecue sandwiches you can eat in one night (your record was eight). other times it means doing a knife trick while walking and cutting your hand in two places. it’s not your fault, they told me. he just likes you, and he’s clumsy, and you shouldn’t beat yourself up over it.
but, i think. but, if you hadn’t asked me to walk down to the lake with you before everyone else got there, and if i hadn’t agreed, you never would have had your knife out in order to show off. if only i had said no, you would be ok.
i remember how frustrated you were when you got back from the hospital with stitches in your knuckle, glue on the severed tip of your thumb, and a clunky cast on your finger. you were late to breakfast all week because you couldn’t put on your glasses yourself, or lace up your hiking boots. i saw you shake with anger after the twentieth camper asked what you did to your hand.
that’s why i sliced open my palm one morning and soaked my half-eaten apple with blood: so people would leave you alone. they stopped staring at your cast, switching to cradling my hand and running gentle fingers over the bandage.
i still have scars on my palm from that day. if i see you again (and i pray that i will), i know you will have a deep cicatrix on your skin as well. i wonder if you think of me when the phantom pains make it ache.
scout, i know i never loved you. but, listen — i could have. oh god, i could have, and when the seasons change, i hope you come back into my life with the new summer. i left you last july without a kiss or even a goodbye, and when i lie awake at night, i think of what words i could have used to make you understand how i felt about you: the feeling of almost.
i know that i don’t know you that well, but i know i’ve been missing you like hell. (i know // motherfolk)
i wrote this in class when i couldn’t concentrate on anything else. a boy who loves me was reading over my shoulder, and now when my friends laugh, i see him tilt his head and listen for the one who sounds like a bird singing to the sun at dawn.
(unfortunately, scout doesn’t live here. which is a shame, because he flirts by sharing pictures of his cat, mr. kitty.)
oh love, tell me about the way it aches
seeing the sweat glitter on her collarbone, just out of reach
one perfect night when time stood still
and the sunset lit up her hair like stained glass
oh baby, tell me about the flowers unfurling in your chest
when she confessed her sins to you in the dark
all the years spent sobbing in front of altars fell off your shoulders
you asked God for an angel and here she is
oh sweetheart, tell me about the bitter taste of betrayal in your mouth
when you saw her draped over him
did your world fall apart?
did the apocalypse begin when you were writing her love notes?
how did you not notice your one good thing
slipping through your fingers like liquid gold?
oh honey, tell me, did anything hurt more
than when you kissed him while she watched?
three hearts shattering like a robin’s egg knocked out of its nest
sticks and stones, loving and losing
when playing with hearts, there are no winners
wrote this at 3 a.m. one morning when i was very caffeinated from drinking too much tea. it’s not drawn from my own experiences as much as most of my poems are, but there are still some lines that ring painfully true. love triangles are so much fun.