Look at me and tell me what you see. Look at me and tell me if you see anything. I want this body to be an archive, her joints moaning dirges for the girlhood I think I remember, bruises like emblems tied to my wrists and dangling under my eyes. I want my heart to be a movie screen for you to watch lips grazing air softly then paused in a voiceless scream, round and open, always open. Please be my witness. Stand in the dark hallway in my mind and echo my heartbeat, run your fingers across my forehead and along my hairline, a white mouse weaving in and out of a wheat field. Tell me you see me. Tell me you know the weight of these notebooks in my hands, the way they smell like 3 a.m. at my dad’s house when I’m scared I’m not the only one awake, the heater cranking her patchwork lullaby, ticks and groans with a hum underneath that never stops, vibrates through my teeth and skull while I dream. Hold me like I hold this humming in my bones, numbing me still so my memories are milkweed seeds spilled out, small and brown and hard under cotton, blowing into the sky before you reach them. Catch everything, please. Catch the seeds in all the white, pluck them from the sky, plant them with me and we’ll feed them these stories until they’re strong. I want to grow something strong.
Kittens are just a starting point that can fall away like the floor beneath my feet, solid then suddenly a single tile
lilypad over a precipice
valley so deep it seems bottomless
as the pit in my stomach where your voice is still
At night I am a clean glass door with your fingerprints smudged across, frost like lace, ice so thin my breath shatters it. I want to tell you this but you’re falling away, ears and mouth tiny and distant, eyes wide but cloudy. You say you’re listening but I can’t tell if you’re even talking to me.
My body is a stagnant pond waiting for spring again, waiting
for a dam to break upstream and for new water, new life. But upstream there’s only a man on a dried up river bank, eyes closed in a face like pale bark. I walk by and his eyes open. So does my body.
I try to remember
how to run. I try to remember
anything. My body
is just a starting point, my voice is just a starting point, my mouth is just a point of light in a vast black sky, one distant boat on a calm ocean, no land anywhere, just one body floating and one pinhole of light on the curved horizon where water and sky meet but are so close to the same color they are one world.
Eventually I sink,
the bottom fallen through, and I’m a lump in the open throat of a giant, her body full of wind and October apples, leaves already changing, blowing past me as she breathes. I’ll make my home in her open chest, sit in the space between her heart and lungs weaving blankets to hang on the walls of her ribcage, her pulse a song so close to me I think it’s stuck in my head. I make a home here, let the spiders move in and hang their hammocks in the corners, refer to her body as my house and apologize that it’s never clean, sweep bone dust under the floorboards before you come to visit. I tell you this and you tell me I’m crazy, lay me down on your kitchen table and pull apart my ribs to show me there’s nothing there. “Don’t worry,” you whisper, your eyes like June bugs, dark jewels humming in the air. “Don’t worry. It’s just a starting point.”
My heart is in your hands. I ask if it’s still beating but you don’t hear me over the noise. You just bow your head, lips to the floor. “This is home. This is home. This is home.”
If I had nothing I would show you my open chest cavity, offer you the space between my heart and my lungs where I keep the pieces of these stories, the pebbles my grandmother has worn smooth in her palms and planted like barren seeds, the earth so salty, soil like ash that turns to powder on my fingertips and is swept into the sky by your breath. I want to give you these secrets, tuck them into your breast pocket like a letter from someone who can only dream love, whose hands only create, all blankets woven for this moment, all walls built to surround this home. If I had nothing I would still tell you this, press my lips against the air beside your ear and whisper words that turn my mouth the shape of the moon that night in November when we jumped into the reservoir, our bodies parting the ice blossomed thin like lace over the water. The minnows sleeping amongst cattail roots stirred around our feet, and we both said “cold” but felt only night and sky and love, love,
love me, love me. If I had nothing, would you still say love? Would my name weave through your body like spider silk sticking to photographs we’ll call memories some day. Open my palms and place yourself in them, canoe down my life lines and laugh at the otters on the shore. I want you to look back and call this joy.
My shoulder is a cradle for the sore part of your head, my collarbone a grand canyon to hold the secrets you couldn’t tell back then. I always see October in your eyes. If I told you this, would you hear? The sky is parting and I can almost see beyond it. My hands are parting and you can fit between them. My lips are parting and you ask if this is silence still.
Did I ever tell you? Have I ever told you? Your body is home and so is mine, my head a roof unpainted, my eyes an attic window. There are bats up here unfolding themselves into the night air, the same color as the horizon at dusk, and I wonder how I can feel so invisible and so big at the same time, a pane of glass across a busy sidewalk. When I was small sometimes I found birds who had flown into our kitchen window, the guilt like pennies in my mouth, bloody copper taste, one grey feather still stuck to the glass, nausea settling, a stagnant pond in my belly. But sometimes when I was small I’d be sitting on the porch steps and a hummingbird would stop inches from my knee then be gone, a streak of green fading. My heart hovers in my chest, humming, never resting, always, always, always. Here it is, for you. There it goes, for you, for you, for you my friend.
If I told you these stories, would you see? If I say, “red,” do you picture a tulip on the third day in May, throat opening? Do you picture blood blooming crimson on my thigh, body opening? Do you see the red insides of my mouth, jaw gaping, words almost here?
Place yourself in my open palms, place your body in my open doorway on the afternoon I least expect it, my shocked hands dropping a half-washed bowl, our hearts quickening, disbelieving, voice almost a dream. If I wake up tomorrow and you’re beside me on my white sheets, I would think this might be every day, that the time you were gone was a memory mistaken, like the peacocks in the yard when I was five, the feathers they left behind, the years that passed before I realized they were never there. How could I imagine a peacock if I’d never seen one? Did the turkeys in my memories take on the color of the June blueberries, the pictures of their feathers stained by the color of my sister’s eyes? Is any of this real? Where have we been? Where are we now?
I am a September night with a breeze for you to come home to. I told you this once and you looked at me like you were seeing me for the first time and not at all, like your eyes were somewhere else and maybe I was there too. I look behind me and don’t see the ghost reflected in your irises. I pull on my grey sweater, suddenly chilled, my arms like birds plucked naked, the winter a memory frozen to my tendons. I’ll wake up tomorrow with icicles on my cheeks. They’ll melt into ocean water on your tongue. When you tell me what you see, I promise I’ll try to listen.
After it rains I spend hours pressing my palms into the mud and wondering what color I was before I was born, if I was always destined for this
body. I form the clay in my mind into faces to talk to when the grass is so dry it breaks beneath my feet and falls into the cracks in the earth. Even the wind is lonely. I pretend my skin is see-through so my heart can watch itself beat. I’ll stand in front of the mirror for a lifetime before it believes
I am not corpse. My grandmother’s hands
are waiting for me and I know they’ll surprise me in sixty years when my face is framed in silver and a pen is trembling between my fingertips. I hope my grandmother doesn’t know this. For now I count flower petals, wondering whether or not you love me and not knowing exactly who you are or really caring because I’m pressing flower petals between my fingers and watching them become
invisible. On the street, a stranger tells me I smell like blueberries and I want
to vomit. The stranger’s eyes pass through me and I want to grip my claws around his throat until his face is so pale I can’t see it. Darkness is something I crave as much as fresh bread.
For now I watch the mud dry and crack on my palms, opening, my skin underneath.
I have always been a replacement part–spare tire left on the side of the road once my father found a new one, rusty gear holding together my mom’s grandfather clock while she waits for the repairman with his shiny, unused things. My heart is an old spring that creaks, moaning “Please love me,” “Please stay,” even when my voice begs it to stop needing. Be a broken plate. Be a wet and faded newspaper. Be good for nothing, wanted for nothing, always alone. In my dream last week my stepmother pointed a gun at my chest and I was surprised, always surprised although she has been a bullet tunneling through this body for years, bouncing off the steel walls of my skin, ripping trails through my insides, never finding a way out. She was always something shiny and full of movement, a well-maintained part that would never stop. My father can use parts like that. He knows how to make so many things. His hands can tile a bathroom, frame a window, break a deer into steaks, pull an oak tree down piece by piece until it’s splinters fallen in the yard. I built a porch swing when I was 14. He said I had to. I didn’t sit on it much, was always hiding between the walls, listening to my father’s sledgehammer tearing through the drywall. No one’s ever noticed when I’ve disappeared.
Do I have anything to say today? Nope. I might have something to say if I were a poet, or if I were a man, or if I were a man who was also a poet, or if I were a dog because dogs are so infrequently asked if they have anything to say. On the walk to the bus this morning I saw a spider with dozens of tiny spiderlings on her back. When most people see spiders, they don’t think of motherhood, but everything has a mother, even tadpoles who hatch into an open pond with nothing to name parent but the jelly they squeezed themselves out of, a labor that no frog saw. Today I can’t remember my mother–I can’t remember my birth, only know what someone told me so long ago I can only remember the feelings and not the words. Today I can’t remember how to build stairs, find myself standing on the ground with planks across my arms and nails between my teeth, never changing anything. Today I have nothing to say, nothing at all except sweat I don’t want, skin so hot I can’t feel it. How boring, how boring, I’m boring. I’m a boring beetle, mouth full of wood, body full of splinters, stomach tight with bark, boring beetle, boring, boring. I’m so boring. I’m boring so I’m born, born soon, leaving soon, cycles, everything coming around again. I’m yawning and it’s summer. I’m summer and it’s night again. I’m night and summer will never end. Summer is ending and I’m here. I’m here. I’m still here. I’m still. I’m quiet and small and need to say something but don’t have words for it. I’m huge and quiet and slow. The air is thick molasses, too sticky sweet to breathe. I’m quiet and breathing. I’m breath and still. Still breath pausing on your neck. I’m here. I’m here. Here. Here. Hear. Hear me, hear me. You can’t hear anything. Are you here? My mouth is full of wood chips, dry and impossible to chew. I lower my lips to the cold clear creek water on the mountain. At the sandy bottom I see a tadpole just starting to grow legs. I don’t have anything to say.