you liked the color chartreuse
really, you liked the word chartreuse—it sounded to you like something gutsy and belonging in fairy-tale dreams that birthed speaking frogs and mushroom streams and villains you could smile to, not the buckram collecting dust on its small embossment. you liked the way your stories spun straight from the tongue carried some elegant cadence of their own—unwieldy when told from the backseat but lacking in a way that was coltish and perfect. you liked the way cars on the road late at night sounded as they drove by your window—you liked that there was someone else awake with you.
there’s a picture face down on your desk. and in it you’re flying, next to the birds. they’re seagulls, and you’re all headed toward the ocean. someone might have told you. they could’ve told you the water’s no place for a bird that hasn’t yet learned to swim, but the water found you in other ways, and you were out on the sidewalk when the first drop fell, your chartreuse umbrella a rain saucer, your eyes reflecting diamonds that hadn’t been born yet.
and even now that it’s a bird’s eye view of things, you can’t remember how it used to feel, the soaring.
so on the non-winding way home
hastened vineyard rows, mustard calf-hide-hills, fingerprints parched in blue contours.
it seems somebody’s rolling grapes between powder-tepid thumbs and forefingers, / baptizing fleshy pulp upon velvet mount bases. / above, there’s a sheer moon in daylight—a tracing paper face. / drawn in imperfect likeness, certainly, yet / while grass shoots capsize and invert on the roadside, / their dead grassroots brown in lukewarmth. / you see, when heat is choked down to its fever core, it alights on the tongue. / this, i know. /
so i know too that my toes are defrosting in a sink somewhere. / at home, maybe. / in glazed hours they must melt their laces; / they must / sit and mangle and rot, / milk fat frothing at their folds when they declare frostbite, lesions / foaming like the hills. / burgeoning. / bruised. / if they yield till the numbing fades, might i be whole again? /
so i know; / i know now that it won’t be long before a flood is waiting for me at home. / i know too that it won’t be long before the new air in my lungs is drowned and gone. / but / before i go, let me whisper out the car window how / untouched jungle roots might devour that cabin christened “post office” if they remain pristine. / how i wish i knew the speed at which / grass / grows. /
running off into the sunrise #hbdsunny!
i. “a wide-brim sunhat and knee-length white dress / and a patterned blanket spread out on the beach”
a picnic beneath a butterscotch cloud / and two basketfuls of questions. / tongues running out / of smiling mouths and crinkled eyes, / with a pause for midday stargazing./
squinting at the sun. / seeing double / while your laughter dances itself over and under the tide, whipping back and bowing to its lady knight. / during it all, you shine in the way waves shimmer down depth./
then: a simple lull in the tide / a stillness arranged by the noises of the clouds. / a perfect orchestra./
swells dip their heads to foam at the crown of yours / (the seat of the crown you always wear). / sure to water the peony kissing your temple, / they gift whispers of aeaea shore graces. / (and their love does not break skin)./
as the ocean ebbs, her waves cup your smile in cheeks, / their peaks glowing and new. / we watch as a golden aftertaste nudges the corners of their mouths / skyward./
ii. “where your fellow locals introduce you as ‘the island’s sweetheart’”
the island must be in love with you, truly, and you deserve it so. / its sands have promised to hold through book-pourings, / and its people have named themselves your family./
this land’s gasps and summer breezes have brushed the words beneath your fingertips, / marveling at your garden of poems and proses. / this world has witnessed your worlds. / for that and much more, it clasps its waters to its shore in thanks./
that time you decided to paint a portrait of us
i hang with you over our unused fireplace, framed in gold. i still remember the day you came home with it. the frame, i mean. how you folded the tag and told me it was gilded. i wouldn’t have minded that it's just plastic, but you said to me it was gold.
so i guess this is how we’ll be remembered, then. you with one hand on my knee, your other holding mine. me with my eyes on the ceiling, my smile tipped ever so slightly to the right. you sit on my left.
we’re beautiful. me, especially. you’ve filled in that one dimple i have. the one that comes out when i laugh. and my smile is so charming, isn’t it? i’ve never been able to get my real mouth to sit like that before. and i see you’ve colored my cheeks the way you wish i’d do. i look like a goddess. but at least you look like yourself. spot-on, really.
here’s to you, darling.
to sleep or whoever takes me to them
i meet you so often yet never remember your face. / sometimes i wonder if i’ve ever met you at all. /
when the shadows have begun their sprawl, / when they’ve flattened themselves in straight angles on rooftops, / when bars of light within have grown thin and frail, / and their death-sighs hit my wall, roadkill hymns at best, / is this when you come?
when midnight metronomy of last has long been forgotten, / when crunchings inside my pillowcase swell up my right ear then, / when silence starts to pool in the spaces amid plaster, / and the tear in the night sky’s perfume won’t mend with the staleness of evenings past, / is this when you come?
when listening to clouds drift has deafened me, / when all breath measurements remain miscounted and misunderstood, / when a sneeze across the house stifles a fly by my mouth, / and tear ducts sing in the wake of self-symphonies, / is this when you come?
when the face in the wall has stopped its writhing and taken to staring at me instead, / when table-corners soften under the edges of dark and my joints are numb to pain, / when I’m falling but not and my sheets catch me anyway, / is this when you come?
or perhaps you come when my eyes least expect it, / when they curl into themselves, / when they blink. /
perhaps you arrive sandwiched between forgettings.
my hair calls herself an artist
my hair still mangles herself into your face on freckled tile, did you know?
i watch, shivering and wrapped in my shower curtain. / i watch till it’s time for me to take you and your smirk to the sink, / your eyes sticking to my fingers without fail. / my fingers, your eyes, your mouth, / they shake jointly / while i drown them on porcelain and let the drain choke on their skeletons. / i’ve come to think of it as an art. / the drowning of you, i mean. /
my fingers crumple and pull and wrench and hinge and scratch / at black strands twisting into a counterfeit print of your breath / i wipe it all away with my palms / (your breathing, though fake, was fogging up my mirror) / and your mouth curls to the beat of my hair rearranging herself on the inside of my wrist. /
your nose always sprawls on the tile longest, / and i would laugh at the sight of it if my lips weren’t pressed so tight together. / they don’t like the taste of salt, you see. /
last week i started drowning you with my teeth. / it’s easier this way. / i believe i’ve mastered the art, / and i rather think the taste of salt is growing on me. / now, my hair splits in the gaps of my teeth / as i rip it away with a vengeance. / you, darling, won’t ever have to hear it. /
ice cream soda, cherry on top
skip skip skip
once upon a time / i slept in half-lidded dreams of your curling smile and my eyes dancing in yours. / i was up to my neck in chocolate stares, darling. / and you / you weren’t even ankle deep. /
skip skip skip
your name never made it beneath my airborn feet. / i tripped too early and fell, my face melting in a watered-down confession. / for days, your wordless dimples watched me drown in chocolate, alone. / but i learned to laugh with collapsing lungs when your name swept in and out of somebody else’s mouth, / so i owe you a thank you, really. /
skip skip skip
i bandaged myself in tight threads of youth, the kind that comes neatly on a spool and dulls shame’s blinding glare. / when the threads ran out, i choked on the plastic remains and swallowed them. / they scratched my windpipe on the way down. / and i / i came up breathless. /
skip skip skip
i clutched cursive letters and charcoal blotches taken out of context. / how deliciously tragic it would have been if they weren’t. / i found myself pooling around the year’s edge, / and before the dripping began, / shame’s glare prodded me out the door, reminding me that reopening old gashes was my routine (like christmas mornings in a way). / with my head screwed on straight, my loosening thread didn’t even snag on a backward glance at you as i left. / perhaps it’s because the back of your shirt was in front of me. /
skip skip trip
so, dear, the alphabet is not to be trusted. / its song is contagious to short leaping legs proud, / and you shouldn’t hold the letter you land on close to your still-growing heart. / it may start to grow around it. /
it’s getting harder to stretch out in child’s pose
on some days, child’s pose comes naturally. / too naturally. / so naturally that when i scowl at my miniature limbs folding and resting in tandem, in harmony, / i catch my reflection in the mirror / and see immaturity throwing a tantrum back to my face. /
on other days, / the ones that fill my ears with my heart’s irregularity, / i find my limbs to be too large, too awkward / to crease and extend at my will. / they’ve outgrown parts of me and filled others to bursting. / these are the days when my eyelashes caress my cheek and i flail inside myself, / knocking on doors and begging for anyone, anyone / to tell me where i’m going. / (soon enough, i realize that there’s only one door, the door to my mouth, and i keep circling back to it.) / i can only remind myself of where i’ve been, and on these days, / that’s not nearly enough. /
it’s on these days / that i long to shrink / to the point where i can’t think. / it’s on these days / that i long to rhyme rhyme rhyme till no two words aren’t friends / rhyme rhyme rhyme till my heart breathes content. / it’s on these days that i wish i could spend the hours till dusk / just tracing the plaster on my wall and laughing when i find a face there. / it’s on these days / that i realize monotony / isn’t signing its letters with ‘love’ anymore. /
monotony only meets me now wearing procrastination, me with my arms pinned open to the inevitable. / because darling, our arguments don’t stop time even if i beg. / (we used to be childhood friends. never again, never again. monotony grew bitter with me.) / and it’s only a matter of when that sugared boredom and unfiltered time that i try to steal back--
(forgive me, forgive me. / but should i know blame for reaching to reach behind? / after all, i can only remind myself of where i’ve been. / i say that this. this. this is the present, / but before the last ‘t’ in present has left my lips, it’s the past that takes the letter)
--will unmask and unsweeten, tipping my chin up to plunge their hands down my throat, / tugging on worn arteries and pumping my weary heart / till its beating’s beating, whichever beating comes first, / fills my ears once more. /
caverns stretch between my limbs / my limbs that hug the covers for comfort. /
they crawl deep, entrenched in my humidity / I can smell fatigued satisfaction after a day averagely spent on my breath. / my foot, with its awkward angles and veins that arch whenever and wherever they feel, fumbles with the sides of blank fabric, / twisting it with feigned deliberation and murmuring thanks for its life kept secret. / my thigh and calves prickly masses, / they wrestle with missing curves and stubborn caverns of their own. /
a waning neck condenses, hidden peach fluff and all, onto sheets worn thin. / sifting through holes in the weaving, it pools in a milky mass below warmth / and leaves an ugly slump of short hairs behind, stamping a seal on what it used to be. / I sprinkle them over the liquid grave before / a faint film coats my throat, and I choke on its writhing. /
the film finally squirms out / unbidden / from every corner and gap, launching its body into the caverns and out again toward the night / (but not before whispering in a serpent tongue to my brow, pointing out uncovered inflammations with a condescending talon / and slipping under my outstretched arms, teaching them how to slant properly) / I think it always leaves with a little more than just itself, but who knows what it steals. / nobody notices the tiny things missing / until one day it’s all gone. /
my eyelids stand speechless on the pillowcase, and I bid them farewell too / to flee, float, far up toward the night. / failure awaits, but the ceiling is there to bear the shock of my trying. / for that, I am grateful. /
of midnight metronomy
pillows are streaked with
afterimages of tears,
and crumpled hairs disentangle
from a minute last’s nightmares.
here the ticking starts. listen.
tick, tick, tick.
each second flips a wink under its chin as it wanders past.
can they not wander briskly?
tock, tock, tock.
darling, the minutes are longer than the seconds, don’t you know?
i count both till i hear double. they’re both unbearably slow.
tick, tock, tick.
it’s been a while.
a while? yes, a while to some, not most. i still have a long way to go.
tock, tick, tock.
how long will you count? when will you stop?
don’t ask until you’ve counted the night with me.