who can only go to one liquor store
where he knows they don’t card,
tells me that I am a child.
And I wonder how I can have experienced so much and still have this be true?
A boy tells me that if I want to be left alone,
I need to take care of myself.
Somehow my discomfort with the concept of self-love
is an invitation to instruct me on how I need someone else to love my body for me.
A boy rapes me,
then tells me I create drama.
As if being unable to find the EXIT signs in an empty theater
gives him permission to make my naked body center stage,
a spotlight on my cellulite
that he will make fun of
but fuck anyway.
I am only good for one drunken night.
A boy tells me I share too much
and I wonder how this can be true
when I have only told him one of thousands of sad stories.
A boy tells me if I want to be lucky enough to be the prize on someone’s arm,
I will have to be more like the other girls.
I don’t know how to tell him that the other girls are also the broken teeth at the bottom of the shot glass you forced into my lips,
also the ash you flick off the end of your cigarette when it no longer serves the purpose you wanted it to.
Boy asks me if I want to get better
I tell him I want to be able to walk without fear that I will arrive home even less of myself.
Tell him I am afraid of becoming property,
Another postcard of a land conquered.
Tell him I do not want to become the pieces stuck in the ridges of a man’s shoesole,
Between the gum and rocks.
Tell him I do not want to become a statistic,
One in four, another one bites the dust.
Tell him I am afraid of being the kind of person
Who is afraid.
He asks me why I am so scared of everything,
Then tells me most assailants will do it again.
If I am already the sand between a man’s toes
What is to stop me from running down the drain,
Washed away with all the other unpretty things?
If I am already used,
What is to keep me from throwing myself away?
Boy asks me if I want to be pretty
and what he means is do I want to be a victim.
Boy asks me if I want to be pretty,
and what he means is do I want my poetry to be less graphic,
easier to regurgitate to an audience of baby birds whose ears are not ready to hear the truth.
Boy asks me if I want to get better
And I tell him that better is a violin that needs to be tuned just like any other instrument,
that better is not a final destination
but a quality of life,
the only difference between being better and being sick
is my distance from the edge of the cliff.
Boy asks me if I want to get better
And I tell him I want to get free.
My grandfather’s tears pool on the computer keys
And he rereads his poem, which I’ve typed.
I wish I had the bravery to edit my own poems.
I prefer slinging them into the air like spitballs,
Pushing feelings out with a quick breath and an empty soul.
I like to put my grief into manageable chunks.
In this case, it doesn’t work like that.
It hits me out of nowhere, and suddenly I can’t see, can’t find the ground.
Her vertigo is a feeling I didn’t understand until now.
A lot of her feelings I never understood.
She was passionate in all the right ways
And active even when her body limited her.
She was smart in a way that made her terrible at spelling
But excellent at public speaking.
At her memorial, I mumbled and stumbled through my poems about her.
If I knew that my grandfather would be ok,
I would crumble back into myself, making my bed a breeding ground for anger.
I tell other people he’s ok, because, like me, he hates people worrying about him.
That’s why I keep my fellowship predictable.
Coffee in the morning, sitting at the dining table as he does his crossword.
Movie nights, Wednesdays and Sundays.
Watching the news at 6 o’clock.
I can tell he knows typing his poem was one of the hardest things for my fingers to do.
It hurt in a way unlike a paper cut or a blister.
It’s being pummeled with spitballs, labeled fear and running and eating and continuing to live the life she’d want me to.
My grandpa ended his poem with this:
This new world is not a brave one.
I was born on January 24th, making me an Aquarius.
I guess that means I’m drowning.
I’m 5 foot 4...and three quarters. I weigh enough to hate getting dressed.
I don’t know how to sleep, and I’m a sucker for a bedtime story that lasts until morning.
I’m still learning how to stay above water.
I often pull myself under with silly addictions and serious jokes.
Every time I come up to breathe, I think the air is so beautiful that my lungs might just cave in.
I was born by the ocean and I’ve been afraid of it every since.
I like white lies… a lot.
I’ve been told I’m enigmatic
Which is a nice way of saying I don’t make any sense.
Maybe it’s because my mom was an actress,
Or maybe it’s because my mind’s french pressed stories speak
more dark comfort than the truth.
Can you tell I like coffee?
It’s a kind of drowning I’m ok with, rich and caffeinated, purposeful;
Unlike the sea’s perpetual heavy exhales of seaweed and inconvenient facts.
I trip over sand like it’s boulders, thousands upon thousands of
little stories I tell myself to keep myself awake.
Now, I can’t even tell which grains of sand are broken glass and which are broken hearts, gathering softly between my toes and nestling in my consciousness.
I’ve never been on a sinking boat,
But I imagine it feels like high school,
How you’re waiting through grades and expectations
Treading water until a lifeboat labeled college picks you up
Or maybe you just get used to swimming.
Hi, my name is Annabelle.
I enjoy tea, fairy tales, and showers that wash off long days and
lather my hair with lavender hope.
But I don’t decompress as much as I need to.
I have inflatable life vest happy pills and sea green serendipity nail polish.
My hobbies include forgetting to drink water, wearing denim jackets lined with insecurities,
and calling myself curse words.
I don’t sleep much, but I know that there’s calmness in the clouds
And happy memories floating on counted sheep.
It reminds me that dreams are worth staying awake for.
In the beginning, I treated you like a challenge.
Now, it's a challenge to find something about me you don't already know.
You're the only person I can laugh and cry to at the same time.
Sleeping on your shoulder as you watch the sunrise is a feeling of safety I’d never had before, like I truly believed that if that bus had rolled over, you'd worry about me first.
Freshman year walks home, hot air, sweat on my forehead,
yelling about things when I was too tired to speak,
forcing anger down when I was more angst than water,
70% sure I was going to kill myself, 100% sure I couldn't do that to you.
Knew I could never mean as much to you as Grace or Austin,
but being ok with that because I just wanted you to be happy.
First really big mistake I made,
longest shortest six months,
hopeful, reckless little love,
remember the first time he told me he loved me,
I could see in your eyes it was supposed to be you.
I was so happy because finally there was something I could give you,
even though it would break me to do it.
I was so afraid of so many things,
it took me 3 more months to let go.
Remember when I broke up with him,
I was so calm you thought I was joking,
then I cried in your closet all afternoon.
The first time I overdosed,
you walked me home,
laughed at me drifting into the street, walking into trashcans,
I decided I was in love with a brick.
I put it in my backpack and tried to take it home.
You made me put it down because I was falling over from the weight of my backpack.
You told me about this grey area,
how you never felt sure about anything.
I said I was way too sure about all the wrong things.
We used to talk about wavelengths.
How I move too fast and you're sedated by a drug that made me worry about you.
That was the first time I realized skinny didn't mean beautiful.
Now when someone else gave me pills and told me they'll make me pretty,
I thought about you and threw them away.
The first time I realized I missed you
was when my digestion got fucked up again,
and I realized it was because you weren't telling me to drink water and eat breakfast.
The first time I realized I missed him
was when I realized so many of our conversations were about you.
People always think we're fighting
when we're having the best talks,
paradoxical anecdotes ring in my ears
every time you say “hey bud”
and you hug me
and I breathe in your shoulder
and I feel safe for the first time all over again.
The hands of OB are cold and sticky,
drawing you in.
Making you feel comfortable in their web. Handing you whiskey, blunts, and cigs, watching you melt into the sand and disappear. It's easy to break apart when you're made of sea glass.
The hands of PL are bony and hot,
pushing constantly. Flinging you into a stoic frenzy of papers and quizzes, turning lazy eyes into dark circles, borrowed time into barcodes, student IDs. a human reduced to a GPA. humanity at its finest.
My hands are rough but small,
used to pulling my hair out and wiping away tears. My fingernails are bitten and my nail polish chipped, the color carefully selected to not make me seem like a certain kind of person, the kind of person who's identity doesn't belong to the sand or the oceans of academia. Someone who belongs to the wind. Strong and purposeful, without having a real purpose. letting things come and go and not stopping. letting pencil blisters form and scribbles on the back of my hand pile up and not stopping. popping pills and joining drum circles, tap tap tapping, slapping away mistaken identities and not stopping til there's nothing between my fingers but air.
i used to want to be the best
now I just want to be
i used to care about maintaining my GPA
now I care about maintaining my heartbeat
making this brain a brain I want to have,
this body a body i'm thankful for,
not just a vehicle for holding my backpack, grades slipping, like my shoulders pushed down with insecurities, making every minute i spend on this earth another minute sinking deeper into it, feeling the muscles in my fingers play music and wave, instead of pushing my life away.
I used to want to be successful, now I just want to be grateful. tell my family i love them, telling my smile I'm sorry I only used you with teachers, I'm sorry my teeth have forgotten what the sky looks like, sorry you've forgotten what food feels like until its 2 am and you're stress eating between studying for pop quizzes and studying how to breathe correctly when everything in your life is upside down
I used to want to be a leader,
now I lead myself towards freedom,
I used to want to be strong
now I am strong enough to hold the weight of my anxieties in the palm of my hand,
I used to want to be handed trophies,
now I just want to hold your hand,
I used to be haunted by all the things I wasn't good enough for,
used to be better at looking good on paper,
used to be smart,
used to be ambitious
now I'm just happy.
To Be Or Not To Be
has never been the question
It's more how to be
to be grateful
to be kind
to be generous
to be responsible.
We call ourselves students
but how much are we studying what's really important
how to put your problems in perspective
how to be outspoken
how to defend ourselves
how to fall in love.
There are concepts we treat like they're rhetorical
but they aren't
how to treat women is not rhetorical or we would all do it right
how to coexist with people different than you is not rhetorical
or racism would not exist
how to do taxes
how to do a job interview
how to mourn a loss
how to handle being alive
it's all things we overlook
in favor of more pressing concepts
like the hypotenuses of triangles
and how to write a thesis
maybe the thesis should not be
to be or not to be
maybe the thesis should ask:
what is the question?
why do we call things ugly?
there is beauty in every stretch mark
beauty in every misplaced tile and opened door
there is allure in every ripped elbow,
gorgeousness in every spinning hurricane
every split end,
opened to expose the ugly to the world,
open to stretch and see the sunrise,
to wander in its hideosity.
there is wonder in being forgotten,
hope in the unknowable.
I have had so much more trust in the world since you've been gone.
I eat breakfast and don't hear phantom phone dings replicating your heartbeat.
I walk across bridges and don't picture them burning
I close my eyes and don't see myself drowning in memories of what I should have done.
there is majesty in mistaken identities
pillowcases giving back the tears I wove into them,
hourglasses turning backwards
to when you never had a paper cut and never had that first reason to talk to me.
I wonder a lot how much of this is my fault, my fault, my fault
how much I could have stopped.
I'd like to tell you a story but the last one ended in blood.
I'd like to help you but that's not my fucking job anymore
let me describe a panic attack
this one more colorful, more piercing than the rest,
In the middle of a football game,
I ached for a written ending.
to find le fin and finish pretending
I texted, hello, how are you, are you ok
before the last one I already knew,
the words unfolding on my tongue before inhaling, curled up in dread, they sunk to the back of my throat.
I wailed so small that the barnacles in the ocean felt my pain
and my family sat with me, and I thought about how they were chosen and you were not, and my chosen Fernando held my hand, and my chosen Maddie listened as I whisper over and over that you were gone and it was my fault and we cried and she told me it wasn't my fault, not ever, my fault, my fault, it felt like for the first time ever I knew what being alive was.
so it is because I never knew more strength than that day,
that I am sure there is beauty in everything.
That endings have more beginnings than my body has curves
and smoke holds more presence than your fist lifts fear
and I'm rambling
and I don't love you
and I'm sorry
but if it makes you feel any better, I think you're beautiful too.
To get better
is to get diagnosed.
to get better
is to see tree trunks and not see all the lines that bent in to who they are
to get better
is to believe that a tree is alive in the same way you are
and that your lines are growth lines too
To get better
is to open doors and not be afraid of something hiding behind them
to get better
is to look at sunrises and be ready to go to sleep
to get better
is to get worse.
There is no getting better
without pushing past bad
into territory yet unknown by the greatest explorers
and to come back
and say that you've seen it all
to get better
is to look down at the floor and see a pattern you've never seen before and realize that you've seen nothing
that the whole world is people getting
getting sick, getting angry, getting pregnant, getting happy
and maybe getting better isn't so much the goal but something you've been doing this whole time.
and then you'll fall back into atrocities
and it will be ok
because this time it will be just as bad
and this time you will continue to see what you thought were the songs that taped your heart back together but are really just sound waves, flowing out into nothing,
and you will realize you know nothing
and it will be beautiful.