9/15 // september (i must to survive)
a swelling sadness
growing deep within my chest
(pulling, pressing, pushing)
seeping into everything i
i should have expected less
(i should have been hurt by less)
i know it’s not your fault
(it feels like it is, though)
why did you keep
pushing, pressing, pulling?
why did you keep
going, even beyond the initial wound?
why did the disappointment
curdle in my stomach,
grab me by the throat,
twist the knife in my stomach?
i tried so hard to
not expect, to not
hurt at the absence,
but i did! my silly heart
my silly heart—expected
too much, wanted
too much, and it aches—
(WHY COULDN’T I LET IT GO! WHY CAN’T I LET GO?)
five days until
my birthday. i want to
rip my heart out, set its beating
aches and wants and wishes aside
for the week. i want to let it go,
i want to stop expecting people
to do what they’ll say and
say what they’ll do and
care enough about the
silly, inconsequential date and i
want to just!! stop feeling so awful
about it all.
can’t i just have a birthday
and have it be nice?
why am i so sad about this!
i should have expected this!
i shouldn’t be hurt by this!
(can my heart)
(just take a break)
(for five days)
i’m going to love and enjoy and
cherish deeply each day of
september. i’m going to love and
enjoy and cherish deeply each
day of september. whether i like it or
not, i’m going to love and
enjoy and cherish deeply
each day of september. i have to i have to
i have to! i must to survive,
i’m tired of being left behind (i think i want to leave you behind instead this time) (i love you) (i wish i didn’t)
i texted you last night.
the friends i asked about it
said i shouldn’t.
i told them i wouldn’t, and then
i tried to sleep, but i couldn’t stop
thinking about how close we were.
i couldn’t stop thinking about
the things we shared and the
things we said and the things we did
and then i got all nostalgic, and nostalgia,
that horrid beast, it clouded my hurt and pain.
it colored you pink, and white, and blue (the color of my love for you).
and then i opened my phone and
opened our conversation and i looked, one last
time, at how long it had been
since you last responded
to one of my texts (over a month).
i typed out a text and pressed send anyways.
i felt the regret swell deep within me
the second time i checked
to see if you had said anything back (you hadn’t). (you still)
(haven’t) (i doubt you)
i’m tired of being left behind i’m
tired of being left behind i’m tired
of being left behind i wish i wasn’t
left behind every time.
i love you (i wonder if you love me back still)
i wish i didn’t (i wonder if you don’t love me anymore)
i wish i could stop (i wonder if you ever did, and when).
i doubt that you’ll text me back
but i can’t help but wonder
what it would be like if we
started over, if you texted me back more often.
i can’t help but think of
the things i would
change about myself, the things
i would say, and then, well—you
might be angry at that, actually, i think.
you were never fond of the way i
destroyed or hid the parts of myself that
other people didn’t like
or that might have been offensive.
and once upon a time, you did
love me. and you loved the girl i was,
and not the
girl who destroyed herself to
please others. and you may not
love me anymore, but you loved me
then. (this makes me want)
(to text you back)
(even more than before)
i can’t help but
love you, it seems, even as
you don’t text me back
and leave me hanging for days, weeks at a time.
one of my friends said that
it was impossible for you
to be busy for almost two years—
so busy, in fact, that you couldn’t
respond to a simple “how are you?” for
several days. she also said this about all
of the other relationships i’ve
had that have ‘ended’ (stopped)
(stagnated) like this. she says that
i have to raise my standards.
but man if i didn’t, if
love you still.
how do i ever
get over that? how do i
ever stop? will i ever
stop? can i ever
stop? is there an end
in sight? is there an end
(it almost makes me sick)
(that i want to text you, to ask you)
i had a dream this morning,
where someone loved me so
much. they loved me in a way that
made me ache, they loved me in a way that
brought me to tears when i woke.
i know it’s
i wanted that from
i’d probably just be happy if
you talked to me more
does it mean anything that
all these other relationships that have
(stagnated) like this haven’t
left me feeling so lost and wanting for
it all back with that person
like this one is?
i think my
brain is just grasping for straws, now.
but it makes me want to text you a little
more than before. does this make me
someone who enjoys inflicting
pain and sorrow on themselves?
does this craving for the chance to talk to you
make me a masochist? why won’t
this feeling go away? i want it to go away i
want it to go away
i wish you hadn’t left me behind i wish i
had some control in this i wish that maybe i
had been the one to leave you behind i wish
i wish i wish i didn’t love you so much i wish
i didn’t want to text you back all the time i wish
i didn’t feel sick to my stomach at the thought that
maybe it’s just because my birthday’s near and it always
made me feel so sad each time you forgot the date i wish
i didn’t feel this way about you i wish
i could let this go i wish
i could let you go i wish
i didn’t love you anymore i wish
i knew if you still loved me i wish
i didn’t care i wish
it didn’t hurt so badly to say that i don’t want to love you anymore i wish
that i had left you behind, so maybe this could be a little
easier to bear (than wondering what i did)
(than wondering what i said)
(than wondering if it was really you and)
as my birthday (and the milestone) nears, i find
myself worrying, getting
preemptively sad, panicking
about an event
that hasn’t even arrived.
birthdays are like a wound to me—
a shard of glass in the hand, a knife
twisting in your
stomach, a bullet through the
chest. the entrance of the wound
is the growing pains—the
anxiety at the
thought of growing
old, of being someone new
and someone you’ve always been
until the next year.
but this time, there’s—
well, there’s an exit wound, too.
the glass slides through the top of the hand
and spikes through the palm; the knife
twists until you can see it
on the other side; the bullet
comes cleanly through your back.
let me write this out again, be a little
clearer. there’s the date, which is the glass, the knife, the bullet,
then there’s the growing pains, the entrance wound—
and then there’s you. and then, on the other side
of things, there’s the glass again, the knife once more, and the bullet,
come to bite you again, and there’s this feeling
that you won’t be happy
when that day comes
and on the days that follow. there’s this feeling
that no one’s going to
remember, that they’ll forget, and, for some reason,
this feels like a last chance—that if they forget,
if they forget this time, that that’ll be their
last chance. that there’s not going to be
on the other side.
(but does the glass, the knife, the bullet, do they have to)
(go all the way through? can’t they just)
(rot inside of you?)
and before, all the years before, you
used to be so sad, so anxious, so worried,
and when people forgot (or made like it was)
(any other day, like it wasn’t)
(you being markedly unthesamed), it felt like
glass through the back of your hand,
a knife to the stomach,
a bullet to the chest.
but the wound was only one-sided, and
all you had were growing pains (that healed) and
the memory of being forgotten or
dismissed (that rotted, rotted, rotted, continued to rot inside of you)
again and again and again
and, yeah, maybe it’s
healthier to have the
glass go all the way through,
or the knife come out on the other side,
or the bullet wink back at you from behind,
but, man, if you don’t feel so sick
for so much longer before. how do you cope
with the thought of it never happening again
when you’ve collected all these scars
from all the years before? how do you cope
with not having the people
who remembered every time
show up again?
this year feels like a year of
lasts and ends and stops and brick brick brick walls. i
feel like, at every turn, i am told
that this is my last
chance, my last turn, my last
time, that i’ll never
feel this way again, that i should
enjoy this while it lasts, because
it’s the last i’ll ever have—and i can’t help but
let any joy i could have had
rot, rot, rot inside of me, clutched in the
grubby hands of anxiety and panic as i
face that this is the
last. the last of it. the last time, the
last point, the end, the stop, that
a brick wall is being built
right in front of my eyes as i’m
told to enjoy the inside, because i’ll be
stuck outside of this wall
for the rest of my life
and i won’t have another chance.
and maybe that’s the exit wound—
maybe it isn’t their last chance,
or yours, but
maybe this is this year’s
wound: the date, the glass, the knife, the bullet,
then the growing pains, and the entrance wound, and then—
me. and on the other side is the exit wound,
the glass shining back at me, the knife twisted through and
pushed too far, the bullet come back to wink at me, and my
maybe that’s the exit wound,
maybe that’s the exit wound,
maybe that’s the exit wound,
(how do you cope)
(how do i cope)
(with the exit wound)
8/28 // we were just friends (but damn if that didn’t mean just as much to me as anything else could have)
we were just friends but the
hurt the hurt the hurt
(i said it was fine and i meant it but it hurts)
(why does it hurt so bad)
i told you it was fine and i still mean that,
because if you’re busy i don’t want to keep you
or make you feel bad, but some
part of me that i wish
i could kill (oh, she says i should keep it alive) wishes
(wishes wishes wishes) that you’d
want to be kept, want to waste
time with me.
and we were just friends but the hurt doesn’t
hurt any less because of it. i wish i wish i wish
i knew how to say this
and not make a fool of myself. i wish i could
tell you in a way that
wouldn’t hurt you and would say what i mean—i want
to say: honestly it’s
fine if you’re busy, and it’s fine if you
didn’t want to talk to me, but some part of me
(i wish i could kill this part off) (i am ashamed of this part of me)
wishes you made the time or the effort to waste
time with me. and also, i want you to tell me if you
didn’t want to talk to me at all, actually, and i
want you to tell me if i was
annoying, or clingy, or too too too much. and i promise
that i’ll be happier if you respond to that honestly (even if it’s
a yes, you were, or, yeah, things changed and i don’t love you anymore) than
if you tried to apologize or talk to me more.
can i say that? i don’t want to lose you.
(it hurts, it hurts, it hurts. i wish it didn’t hurt so bad.)
sitting in short shorts and a long sleeve t-shirt,
in my bed, from where i haven’t moved
in about a week (i got sick, i got weak, i can’t stand),
and i’m trying not to cry
as “supercut” by lorde comes on—
i’m reading the business textbook, writing up
the vocab, just sitting here, contemplating
and reaching out
and asking how you’ve been.
and i remind myself of what a friend said—
that i’ve got to up my standards,
and that if you don’t reply for days at a time,
for months and months on end, that, maybe,
i should just
let you go
(i don’t want to let you go) (i don’t want to let you go).
and then this song comes on, and i suddenly
feel like crying. and i just.
i can’t help the feeling that rises up in my chest,
that makes me feel like i’ll explode, that
makes me want to cry and ruin this
expensive textbook. and i can’t even
focus on the vocab, i’m so—
i’m such a wreck
over you. we were just friends but
damn if that didn’t mean just as much for me
as anything else could have.
“’cause in my head (in my head, i do everything right) / when you call (when you call, i’ll forgive and not fight) / because ours are the moments i play in the dark / we were wild and fluorescent / come home to my heart”
and i can’t help but wonder—
i’ve been wondering for days, now,
weeks, months—what i did wrong.
you said, at the beginning, that it was you and
not me. (but at least seven other things)
(just like this)
(have happened to me—they stop talking,)
(they stop responding, they say it’s)
(them, and not)
(me,) SO RIDDLE ME THAT, HUH? tell me
why this has happened so much—is it
coincidence? because i thought
coincidence was when it
happened twice. when it happens
over seven times, is it really
you and not
me? whose fault is it then? i
have this feeling that it
might be mine.
but my friend, she says that i have to raise my standards.
i still find myself unlocking my phone and navigating to our long-dead
conversation, and thinking thinking thinking
“’cause i my head / in my head, i do everything right / when you call, i’ll forgive and not fight / all the moments i play in the dark / wild and fluorescent / come home to my heart, oh”
is it lifelong?
they ask me what it is that i’ve
got. they ask why i have to wear these
braces. they ask me why i’m so
tired, why i don’t play like i
used to, anymore. they ask me why i can’t
stand, why i can’t walk very
“i’ve got hypermobility,” i say. “and something
“else, but we’re still looking into that.” i look them in the
eyes, with an easy, careful
“what’s that?” they ask. “hypomobility,” they say, as if just
by saying it (and incorrectly), they’ll be
granted some great knowledge. well, i guess they will.
“hyper,” i say. “hypermobility. i’m too stretchy.” i
pause. i watch their blank
stare. “there’s this thing,” i continue, with that same practiced,
easy, careful smile, “in my dna—it makes it so that i stretch
“t o o f a r
“at my joints. i hyperextend things often—fingers, thumbs,
“knees—among other things. it causes
“a lot of pain.”
“oh,” they say, blinking
at me. “so when do you
(my smile stretches, t o o t h i n , and it breaks)
i laugh, and it makes me
sick. “i won’t,” i say, smiling a little
wider, a little more carefully, as if
this will take off the edge. “i’ll have this my whole
they quiet, and they look at anywhere but me.
“but,” they flounder, like a fish
out of water, “can’t they make it better? give you a pill,
“give a transplant—”
“no,” i cut them off. my voice is tired. “there isn’t
“a pill, a cure, a transplant. it’s a forever thing.”
they sit there, thinking, stewing.
and then their face lights up.
“have you tried tylenol? ibuprofen? gabapentin?
“what about acupuncture, herbal teas, or aromatherapy? have you—”
i laugh, cutting them off. something in me tries to
sour, but i hold it
tight in my hands, unwrinkled and
untwisted—hoping, for the love of God, that i don’t
let go, and have it twist up and
let me be angry. “i’ve tried just about everything,” i say.
“all that i can do at this point is
“strengthen the muscles around my joints
“as much as possible, and wear my braces, and
they pause, flounder a little. they open their mouth,
close it, open it again, and—
“so when do you get better?”
i stretch my practiced, easy, careful smile across my face.
i stretch it far t o o t h i n , and i change the subject.
“but how have you been? i’d like to hear about you.”
and i would—it’s true. i’d like to hear about them.
i’d like to hear about them.
i’d like to hear about them—
anyone but me,
and anything but
how they would fix
what i have.
i feel as if i have
run out of time
(i’ll be back soon)
(but i can’t help but)
(preemptively miss this)
(and the routine)
(and the jokes)
(and the understanding)
(i hope i get to work)
(with you again)
i’m going back to fourth grade,
or sixth, or second, or seventh,
or first. i am left and leaving and
gone and going and you
are being left behind. i will
miss you. i don’t know if i’ll
ever see you, again. i don’t want
to leave you. i don’t want to
leave you behind.
my therapist asked me why
i’m afraid of growing up.
i told her that it was the
rituals. at my age, it is
expected that i know
how to drive. that i have
a job. that i am ready
to move out, and to
move on. i told her, “but,”
”the thing is,”
”i can’t even do the dishes.”
”i know how, but i can’t even”
”wash a pot, or a plate, without”
”this awful pain.” i laughed.
it made me sick. i wanted to
but i think that i will
have to remember
to tell her that i am also
afraid of leaving people
and that i am afraid
of being the one left behind.
i don’t want to grow up.
rituals, and the
i’m afraid of being
left behind, in a childhood
summer, with orange juice
dribbling down my chin,
eyeing the lemons, while
steps forward into
a cold and brisk winter,
where they drive in their
adult cars to their
adult schools and their
on adult streets, and head home
to adult homes with
adult lonesomes and
adult plants and adult cats
and forget about the girl
who can’t walk very far
or go to their adult bars
or drive an adult car to
an adult place of adult fun,
who is trapped inside a
child’s life, always
stuck staring at the sun
and watching it set into
childish pinks and oranges, but
never seeing it rise
into adult skies.
lately, i’ve been
i’ve lost most all of my
memories from the past
seven months, and can
hardly remember what
was just said. and i can’t remember
even half of a memory
about her or him or any of it
(and not that i miss that, but)
(it makes it harder to)
(understand my feelings)
(that could be helpful to)
i can’t do more than two things at
once, and most days,
not even that. can hardly
hold a thought
when things are happening
around me. i can’t hold
it together, anymore.
and none of it—this is
the worst part—seems to make
any sense at all. so i
have come to cry
very easily, of late. it is
easy for me to be
angry with myself
and hate myself for making
you repeat yourself.
it is easy to get lost in the
absence of my memories,
of late. i can sit, alone,
and read the same twenty
headlines, again and again and
again, and not feel bored at all,
because i’ve forgotten what the
first one said by the time
i get to the fifth. can you
forgive me for this?
for my absence? for my
requests to rewind, to
repeat, to recap, to have
a helping hand?
the pain has been consistent
for a year now. i do not have
the same level zero
as you. when you ask me how
much pain i’m in, i have to
pull out a scale, with words
and set things for each
number. and only then can i
accurately tell you how much
pain i’m in. i may say a three or a
four without the scale,
but that same pain
is actually a seven or eight. i have
no days where i am in
no pain. i can forget it, for a
while, if adequately
distracted. (doesn’t that sound)
(dumb? sound fake?)
(i hate hearing how)
(silly it sounds in my)
(own ears) (i wish i believed)
(myself) (i wish you believed)
(me, too) (i wish this wasn’t so hard)
your eyes were red
when i saw you today.
like you were sick.
(i was worried about you)
but the trouble with
trying to focus
on doing it right,
is that i can’t pause
to ask you if you’re
okay, too. to ask you
how you are.
i wish i felt less
when you ask me
how much pain i’m in.
and i wish even more
that it didn’t make me feel
like i will cry
when i say “i have to think
about it,” and you make
that face. i wish it didn’t make me
mad to think about such
a simple thing. i wish it didn’t
make me want to cry
to watch you try to
believe me and make sense
of what i mean.
two days a week, every day
for several weeks. i have
learned how to stand
correctly, have learned to hold
my knees apart, have learned
to fall and get back up
again, have learned to
set goals and
overcome, have learned to be
strong, have learned to walk.
i have learned that you
are kind, that you are gentle and
compassionate, that you try to
make things easier, more fun,
more bearable. i have learned
that you are encouraging,
but not to the point of
pushing me past my limits
in agonizing ways.
i have learned that
you are funny and that
frozone is your favorite
incredibles character and that
you liked the first knives out
movie, but not the second.
i wish i knew more
(because you are very nice)
(and you have treated me well)
and that i could master the
ability to count, to do an exercise,
to ask you how you are, and to
listen to your answer—all at
(“i’m stepping in the heart of this here” - feel good inc.)
write several poems
a day—in the
margins of my
notes, in my sketchbook, on
study pages, wherever
now i am stopped
up. (foot stuck in a hole,
hand stuck and numb, pulse
slowing down down down) halted
at the fork
in the road, looking back,
checking to see if
another stares back
at me. and even if no one
does, there is a shame that
crawls up my spine and
burrows under the lip of the
back of my skull (pressing
right up against my brain),
7-29-2022 // RUIN IT BEFORE THE FIRST BITE, YEAH, okay. okay. alright. okay.
and you ask the question,
the one you know you shouldn’t—
the one that’ll hurt,
the one that’ll scar,
the one that’ll leave you gasping for breath
and unable to move for weeks,
the one that could break you forever.
but the answer
leaves something to be desired—
a pause, then a rushed response
that’s longer than “just in case”
but that hurts, if at all possible, a lot worse.
and you want to follow up,
with something like
“well, i won’t bring it if it’s bad,” or
“but do you think it’s worth it at all,
even as just a ‘just in case’?” or
something that’ll hurt worse to say.
but you don’t say anything at all.
you get in the car, and
hold the dessert in your lap,
and try not to frown.
you try not to give in.
you try not to care so much.
and it just hurts,
to feel this way, all while
trapped in the sticky jaws of the heat
and unable to cry. it just
hurts, i say, but there’s nothing
else to say, now is there.
and all i’ve got left
is a tiny whisper of breath—
no courage behind it,
not even an ounce.
no apologies, either. just
beat myself up over
all the little things,
crawl inside myself, fold
into my ribs
(like well-trained acrobat)
tuck my head and face
behind pain-riddled hands,
push and push and push, willing
the pain and self-sabotage away
AWAY AWAY AWAY—
but neither leave.
and i turn round and round
in this crooked, gilded
bone cage, until
my eyes peek out from
behind my spine,
wide and bright and glassy
among the bone,
watching the world
from beneath a landslide,
the b-side of things—
and, wow, is it dark.
it is bleak.
i read every word backwards.
sdrawkcab sdrawkcab sdrawkcab.
i breathe through
the gaping hole
in my chest,
and expel it all
through the windows in my skull.
i cling to the bars of my cage
and watch the world
through pale flesh, rewound.
i see music through
bloodshot, sleepless, sunken eyes.
and i in no way interact
with the outward world,
except to breathe backwards
and press faster
on the rewind button.
“you’re every car that passes by/everybody in the corner of my eye” (off my mind, joe p) // i remember the good times and the bad ones, too
the afternoons were always
blue-green. the mornings were
always a young, summer type of yellow. the
evenings, they were
the orange of the setting sun,
the black of the coming dark night,
and the yellow of the lamplight
and your bedsheets.
i still remember the sounds of the birds
and the way the carpet smelled before
you had it torn up and replaced
with that white, fake-wood stuff.
i still remember you
singing to tom jones,
the grease on the table,
the way you made me mac and cheese,
the way you made me ramen
that i still can’t get perfect
and it bugs me that i miss the way you made it.
i still remember us looking through boxes of movies
and finding the best ones
and watching them while my uncle was at work.
i still remember our walks
and helping you water the plants
and helping you pick the oranges that were really mandarins
(i still remember you correcting me).
i still remember dog sitting with you,
and you sneaking me yorks,
and showing me around the bathroom of the neighbor’s house.
i still remember that halloween
that i dressed up at your house
and we went to the neighbor’s party.
i remember us going to the post office
and checking out the bookcase
of free books together,
and going back to your house
(back home back home back home)
to read them together.
i still remember all the good times
and the bad ones, too.
i still remember the summer i lost you
and the letters i wrote to you
in green and blue pens.
i still remember holding onto the movies we’d bought before
the summer i lost you,
holding on to them and hoping it was enough
that you might want me back.
i still remember all the days and nights and mornings i cried
that summer i lost you.
i still remember the three weeks before my birthday,
just after the summer i lost you,
and how you’d said you wanted to see me.
i still remember needing to take a breather
the night before the fall you lost me,
and a week before my birthday.
i still remember looking up at that midnight black september night,
and hearing the frogs in the canyon croak
and the mountain lions roar,
and sitting in the bed of my uncle’s pickup,
crying alone in the almost-cold warmth.
i still remember how you found me, and hugged me, and cried,
and said that i’d come back and it’d all be better.
i still remember that i came back,
two years later,
and it wasn’t all better.
i still remember the good times,
and the bad ones,
and i still remember all of the plans
written in my poems
and i still cry
because they can’t work
while i still love you. and even if i thought
i’d ever stopped, i never did,
and i don’t know
how i will. because i still remember
all of the bad times, but the good ones, too.