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.
i had to write a poem in my english class, and i liked it enough to post it here. it’s sort of an expansion of this piece of prose, salvador, late or early by sandra cisneros. it’s a pretty powerful short story with some really beautiful lines like “where homes are the color of bad weather” and “its geography of scars, its history of hurt.” i’d really recommend looking it up sometime.
yeah, so, the poem. i hope you guys like it. :)
| your father |
your father sits slumped in the dank den
hunched over in the cracked leather chair like a gnarled tree
the rancid beer bottles rattle together on the crumb-infested carpet
as he rocks sluggishly back and forth
your father hasn’t gone to work in four years
your mother creeps into the den, a wary ghost
she hovers by your father’s side the bills, she starts hesitantly, wringing her trembling hands
your father bares his yellowed teeth
takes another swig of beer
his eyes never leave the television that drones on about car insurance
your mother apologizes as she trips over herself on her way out of the den
you wake up every morning to see your mother going to bed
she spends all night by the colicky baby’s side
lulling it to sleep
telling it i love you so many times that she almost starts to believe it
the baby was an accident
your family can’t afford a fourth child
your mother does all the work for the baby by herself
because your lethargic father refuses to put down his beer bottles
and take care of it long enough for her to take a nap
your father sits slumped in the dank den
he will stay there, oblivious to the state of his family
as your mother wilts away
and the baby grows into a sullen toddler
and your younger brothers repeat a grade
because no one at home helps them with their schoolwork
and you faint everyday and your hair begins to fall out
because you make sure everyone in your family eats before you do
and there’s not enough food left for you
i would wear my heart on my sleeve
if it were not in pieces
i would hold your heart in my hands
if it were not black and white
can we forget that you curled up beside me
underneath a floral blanket
and i couldn’t hold you in my arms
you kissed my cheek as a goodbye
it was tender and blush pink
you must have practiced on the mirror
i swayed and kissed back
but it was sloppy, nervous, shy
i was inexperienced then
now the chapstick stains on
my bathroom mirror match yours
i hope i get another chance
to kiss you before you go
this time, you will be the one
whose fingers trace their flushed skin
every morning when you wake up alone
when i was a child, my family would drive down the gravel road to the greenhouse at the start of every summer. stepping inside the tent was like stumbling upon my own narnia, where it’s always june instead of perpetually winter. the perfume of so many flowers mingled together in the humid air. puddles on the floor reflected back the rainbow of blooms. bugs flitted from plant to plant. the atmosphere made it easy to pretend that i was the goddess demeter and the growing beauty all around me was my own handiwork.
my father would tell my brother and i that we could each pick one plant to bring home. my brother always chose something spiky and blossom-less, such as a serrated-edged, deep purple persian shield or a dark succulent. time after time, i was drawn to the romantic array of cherry, fuchsia, punch-pink, and candy cane geraniums. i always bought one and my brother always got a plant as sharp as his personality. some things are as predictable as the sunrise, and our greenhouse habits are no exception.
when my brother and i placed our special flowers on the counter beside my dad’s box of purchases, the worker would adjust her sin sifter and let us pick out a free marigold. there was a box of fiery blooms in the windowsill, straining for the sun. my brother would claim an orange one and i would choose yellow, and we would hold them in our laps on the ride home and plant them side by side in the yard.
my brother doesn’t care for flowers anymore. our family goes to the greenhouse without him, and i’m allowed as many plants as i would like. the woman behind the counter no longer offers me a marigold.
if we went early enough in the summer, there would be a cage around the back of the greenhouse where they kept easter bunnies. i cupped them in my hands one by one, trembling pompoms with a heartbeat, watching their bubblegum noses twitch and their fur flit around in the breeze. i begged my parents for one — promised that i would make its life heaven on earth, read every book about taking care of rabbits that i could get my hands on — but they never agreed. it’s too much responsibility for you, they said. the cats wouldn’t like them. bunnies are mean, anyway. so i never got a rabbit, and at some point, they got rid of the cages and i never held another easter bunny.
a year or two ago, i went on a walk one dusty, golden evening, and my feet led me down the gravel road to the greenhouse. i paused by the sign announcing the valley’s favorite greenhouse and stared out across the soy fields. birds rustled and sang from the crops and danced duets in the pale sky. the sun-warmed rocks beneath my bare, callused feet became too intense as i stood there, absorbing a picturesque summer sunset in the country, so i scooted off into the grass beside the road. wild strawberries poked up around my toes. a gemstone beetle crawled across a daisy as it continued its steady journey back home.
i have only known creekside junes and julys, spent hunting water snakes on slippery rocks, staining my lips and fingertips with blackberries, biking by myself through corn fields, burning marshmallows in the backyard while watching a shooting star overhead. the ache of every perfect summer i will never experience is eating me alive.