replacement parts justwrite

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 my 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.

I’ve always been a replacement part, part replaceable, part never here long.  I’ve always been replaced before I’ve noticed it happening, one twist of a wrench and everything’s in pieces.  My heart still begs for love and my mouth listens sometimes, ties strings to the windowsills in our apartment, weaves them under pictures of us on the coffee table, over plans of a yard some day and a dog or two.  But I feel like my fingertips are knives, or maybe yours are, that the second you look up and really see me, the rust under my eyes, the cracks that lace my body, you’ll cut each string or bring a flame to the house we’ve built, everything crumbling to ash.  I don’t want to be your replacement part, temporary and unideal.  I want to be important.  I want to be a part of something whole.  I want my mother to show me her open palms and call me priceless.  I want my father to call me anything.  But mostly I want you and I want now and I want you to know me and see me, to want me back.  This is all I have, the rusty spring of my heart, this nighttime creaking, this small and quiet begging, please.

But I’ve always been a replacement part, replaced and re-placed, half useful half burden, half useless all burden, burden, the weight my mom hates on her body, the gladly forgotten first try of my father, imperfect from the start, never a whole thing, always lost and not enough, rusted through–see through me, deer with no skin, muscle silvery, almost glass, not quite mirror, browning in the air, left out until I’m disgusting enough to be thrown away.  I wish there was another ending, but this is all I have.  Rust.  Parts.  Replacing.  Replaced.  Use me, please.  It’s all I’m good for.

feeling boring justwrite

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.

replace i with my body/part

replace i with my body/part

replace i with my body/
part

replace my body with parts
replace part with i,
part i from body,     just       parts.

if i was a body, it would be in two    parts–
small head body over
tall slender body

replace i
place and re-place i
in this body,
in these parts.

i am a body.
i am a body.
i am a part.
i am a part of a body–
body in parts,
i in body, just parts
just parts
just i, just body,
just.

if i had a body it would
part the ocean with its tongue
and curl the lip of the shore around
itself like a sand blanket–
so many parts
all of them small
each one a rock
a grain
one part of a body–

body of land, ocean body–
what is this?
which part?

replace my body
with an ocean, place
my body in the ocean, re-
place my body here, a part
missing, one part
still ocean, all parts
ocean but one.

replace i with my body/part
under a torn line trailing to the corner.  who wrote this?
who left this here?  why?
i wonder if you remembered
to replace i with my body,
if part of you remembered
to replace i.
where is your body?  is part
of it here, with this paper?  is your
heart made of paper?  can anyone
write on it?  is it folded into
chambers, an atrium with doors opening
and closing into other parts?
where did you put i afterward?
did you use my body, or just part?
or both?  do you write?  do you have a body?
do you have a body that writes?
does i write?

replace i with my body.
place my body next to yours,
unfold me on your white sheets, one
body, two bodies, so many parts–
just i alone waiting to be replaced.
replace my body with another,
replace my body in part, replace i,
place body, body
next to my–
my      body.

my body and i
feel like two different parts.
if my body and i were the same person
would i be able to sing?
could i play the piano? would i stop
moaning into the darkness about this body,
stop searching for the missing part, for my,
for i, for                 body, whole body–
my body.

if my body and i were the same person
would you still replace her?
would you carry her
in your open chest with her palms
against the walls of your ribcage,
your pulse a part of her?  would you
replace your eyes with my body, with my eyes maybe–
do you want to see what i see?
do you know what it is
to replace?
to be replaced?
to be my body?  do i?

this page is almost empty, full
of body/part.
what is the slash?
what is between body and part?
the slash is a silver tendon
holding muscle to bone, holding
flesh to self, body to i, parts
together becoming my body.
my body apart
slash body into parts,
body parting like the ocean,
everyone ready to drown, running,
expecting a sea of bodies–
(if they had asked the ocean to part it wouldn’t.  god
likes to test his people, says replace your body
with one part, just love, and if you welcome death i will
keep you from it, will give you my body as yours, the flesh
of my child as bread, say sacrifice what you love before
i break the knife at the last second)
blade against tendon thin
as spider’s silk, all that you love
falling to parts,         almost.

mirror in the sky, what is love?
love, are you the sky?
love, are you a mirror
where I can see my body, or replace
a part with you?
if my body were a mirror
you would never see me or yourself,
replace this mirror with a black sheet,
break glass into parts, place next to body,
replace i next to part.

body/part
body
slash
part
is the slash a linebreak?
is the slash a femur
bone, just one part?
replace i with my part,
my part–
just mine,
just i, just body,
just one part?–maybe
a knee–dot capping bone, small head
of i, one part of body, knee–
(left knee leaning bare against cornmeal for hours, pain like blades
but when i stand again there’s nothing but one red part
on the pale body of i and my father’s voice toneless
like one part of a shredded photograph, sweeping
the cornmeal back into the bag for the next time i speak
without enough fear, without thinking about my body
and what she goes through when i speak.)

i would replace my body with i
if i could, take
the static from her cornmeal-dusted knees, take
scissors from her cramped fingers
the day he makes her cut the lawn with them, take
all of her from the bathroom floor
in her nightgown, face sweaty, brain fading, replace
her with a part, leave
behind my baby tooth, no–
the missing grown-up tooth i inherited
from my father, this empty space
in my skeleton, part missing, my body
unfinished.  my body

says she would replace i with her parts, would offer
her wrists to grab and break if it’s enough
to be seen, offer her nose
to smash in if the blood meant we could
re-place ourselves where the soil isn’t toxic–
(digging in the garden, i think i broke into a hive of red ants, their jaws
leaving cross-stitch patterns on the hands of my body, but i open
my eyes and there is only black dirt, pale fingers, and
the memory of you, one toxic part i can’t pry out,
try to replace)

with someone else’s voice saying want
or beautiful or
stay
but i still beg to be replaced.
please don’t love me.
please don’t leave.
please don’t love me, don’t
see my body, don’t
part me with your hands and replace
the flesh i’ve lost with your lips, don’t
come near this body, don’t
unfurl her parts on the grass in the park and lie down beside them.
i don’t want to feel what’s missing when you’re gone.

(god is a loving father
who places a knife in your hands, says
slice what you love into parts
because i gave you this body, i
gave you this i, you
owe me this, every part mine,
you owe me.)

haunted justwrite

Today I feel haunted by the way your bones folded
like wings under skin, no feathers, dimpled
and pink, a bird plucked naked, body
empty, eyes ever growing, your voice in the dark
closet of my ears echoing again and again–

I want to disappear.
I want to disappear.
I’ve already disappeared.
I will never disappear.

I feel like I’m losing you
still, like I don’t trust your shadow to stay
on the ground, everything flighty
like maybe you’ve never been here.
But sometimes we lay on the grass waiting
for a storm to come, wishing
to be soaked through, wishing
to be cold and together
under this open sky
clouds closing
rain opening
sun going down
moon up
clouds over
so much above me, so little weight.

I keep waking up at 5 a.m.
to a voice that calls me beautiful.
I question if this is a nightmare or a dream
or just you and me and
the rock in my stomach.
I want to pull it out through my throat and
throw it through your window, glass
shattered, shards raining, broken window, broken
window, broken,
broken.

Pull me in, please.  Can you
touch the glass under my skin, the gravel
still inside my knees, churning
so the sound of my joints keeps me
up at night.  I tell my ears to stop
listening, but they hear everything
but me, are dried pears pressed
against the window pane,
are two little girls with palms up
and open, mouths and eyes closed, hearts
an open attic stairway full of October apples.
When did these get here?
Where do we put them next?

I have three of your letters heavy
in my breast pocket.  I have a map
that won’t unfold and might not be a map,
might be a window, might be your bones
sharp in a dim room, might be your laughter
and is maybe all of this or nothing, ash
breaking into clouded air at my breath or fingertips–
this is all I have.  This
is all I have.  My palms

are opened and stained and yours,
not yours, not mine,
mine, yours, yours, you,
you, you.  Without you
just me and this dim night of clouded noise,
air thick with moths like women
in dresses made of ash throwing themselves back
and forth through the light.

justwrite to the bones

I’m sinking into a fog of dissociation, your voice
waking me from dreams of rape, this body
disgusting, the rot of me drawing
you in like a hungry fly, everything bloated.

I’ve never been this close to death or this far from it.  I’ve never been a lot of things, especially beautiful things, afternoon sun splitting against a window pane, hand-sewn lace on a white handkerchief, things that are small and thin and feel like nothing or almost nothing.  I’ve never been a piano, throat opening when you touch me, notes rising from my chest and landing soft on your ears and the tip of your tongue.  When you smash your knuckles against the xylophone bridge of my teeth, it sounds like the lid of a piano slamming.
My ribcage is a wind chime
you’ve weighted down with bricks.
The only times I can sing, the wind is already louder than my voice, sweeps through the empty bowl of my body and takes even the dust.  I used to be a girl, a whole girl with a church organ body, pipes heavy and brass, the congregation expecting me, eyes open.  Now there is a collapsed church in my stomach, steeple stabbing up through my heart, the arms of the cross reaching their bloody hands into my lungs.  Now I might be one gear of a broken music box, shattered music box, one moment of cacophony then nothing, not music nor box, not even a lid and one lone note, nothing, nothing, nothing but the pieces.

But really I’m not an instrument and never have been.  I’m just a body, corpse with a butterfly in her chest.  How much of me is still alive?  All of me is still alive, but how much of me is here?  Is all of me still alive?  Is any of me?

When I was seven I broke my arm falling off a swing at girl scout camp.  It didn’t hurt but I cried anyway because I wanted an x-ray.  I didn’t expect to be broken.  There was no pain.  Now all I have is pain but the x-rays show nothing, only solid white and I search for tears like a road map, proof I can point to, say “I was here,” say “I saw that,” say “I feel this.”  Soon my flesh is picked away and I’m a perfect skeleton, a specimen worthy of display, the stench gone, all this flesh dissolved, everything rotten taken by something with claws or a mouth or at least a stomach, small organ digesting, quiet eater swallowing all of me.

If everything else was gone, would my bones still write?  Would a pencil blend into the thin remnants of my fingers?  Would anything move?  Old bones become hollow eventually, the way birds start, light enough for lift, light enough for sky, light enough for heaven maybe but the jury’s still out on whether birds have souls.

My aunt’s chickens run to her when she opens the kitchen door, smooth their dry beaks on the hills of her feet, nestle into the dirt by her window and wait for her to come back.  Chickens have hollow bones but can hardly fly, their breasts too weighted, their bodies round and clumsy.  We carve them at our kitchen table, knives splitting skin casually like you would open a drawer, thinking more of what’s inside than the opening itself.  Teeth grind body to paste then send it to stomach, this small and quiet consumer, snail under the dirt, mouth hidden but aching, wanting, hungry inside its shell.

Lately I can hardly make myself eat.  I spend an hour making dinner but it tastes like licking the sidewalk downtown.  All night I urge myself to swallow, to convince this body we don’t want to disappear yet, that every bite they take can be replaced.  I miss wanting.  I want to want again.  I want to press the whole of June to my lips like a peach still sun-heavy, warm and soft and full, let its juice run over my chin, sink teeth into fruit and tongue into taste and break out of this season of dust, of grey ash that coats everything like a volcano erupted in Maryland six years ago and is still coughing into my sky.  I miss blue.  I miss open.  I can hardly see through the gathering flies, can only hear the droning of small wings thick as glass, cutting air.  My body is a city street covered in thousands of feet and everything they stepped on to get here.  No one stays long enough to learn my name except one butterfly who might be a mirror, eyes blue as summer sky, voice rising like a piano song in a quiet room, alive and moving, flesh and wings, no bones at all.

freewrite at the smith college greenhouse

This house is green and so am I, my skin fading to the moss that crept out from the forest paths into our yard.  My mind is frozen like a tree, where it’s not frozen but it is still, standing in one place for six years, sixty years, no need for feet because they’d be under the ground anyway.  I’m writing but I’m thinking about sitting on the ground, on this stone path between trees that are on the wrong continent but haven’t noticed, except the banana tree that cracked the ceiling with its fingers, unfolding leaves into the February air–there are no seasons like this at home.

Today my mind wanders to rape and stays there
or it doesn’t have to wander
because that’s where it lives–in the hand of the man
whose fingers cupped mine on the bus yesterday,
in the hard jawline of the man
who followed me home, his saliva
foaming around the word “beautiful.”

This doesn’t make me beautiful.
I don’t feel beautiful.

I feel like a dead fish, mouth and eyes gaped open, skin wet and pale, imagine his knife unzipping my belly, fingers inside.  My body already knows what a stranger’s hands feel like, already knows how to split open on command, already knows what it means when a man on the street spits “beautiful” at it.  I brace against the hot summer air and prepare for my death, back down into myself and shut my eyes, back away from my body, not saying “yours” or “mine,” nowhere to hide but inside.

I wonder if my rapists are thinking about me right now.  I wonder if this man is thinking about me right now, is waiting in the parking lot outside our apartment, scanning the horizon for my body.  I want to be remembered.  I want to be forgotten.  I want to be alone for one moment of my life, with no voice in my head but my own, burn their fingerprints from my thighs, scrub their sweat and spit and words from the grain of my flesh, have one moment of

clean

one moment of me, of silence.  I woke at 4:30 this morning to men’s voices echoing against the walls of my room.  I pulled myself from the warmth of my blankets and peeled aside the closet door, searching for eyes or knives glowing in the dark.  I turned on the hall light, shading my face from its harshness, checked the front door lock twice, listened for Lindsey’s breathing at her door, watched the parking lot for forty-five minutes for any hint of movement, waited for the sun to lick the horizon, and still I couldn’t fall back asleep.

My dreams are rotting with the stench of their presence, these men I’ve only met once but become ghosts passing daily through my heart and throat.  Every day my bones ache, and I don’t know if this pain is me or if it’s their footprints still heavy on my skeleton, the entire frame of me bruised and laced with cracks as thin as spider webs, strands of silk catching everything with wings, tangling more and more the harder we try to fly.  On days like this I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen the sun, if I’m a moth with skin like ash throwing itself back and forth beneath a streetlight, shadow bigger than body always on the ground.
Everyone who walks below me chokes.
No one ever looks up.