as i pull out my third cigarette i wonder if you’re looking at the glow of the street lamps or the glow of the embers as i light it. “those will kill you you know” and i do but i part my lips and it’s all the kisses i wish i could give you.
girls like you
are broken glass—
beautiful but no one
should touch you.
a fool’s diamond,
i’ve cut my hands
on girls like you.
i can’t look at sharp objects anymore without wondering how they’ll feel on my bare skin. i thought the same thing about your hands once so i guess it’s a good thing that i never really found out. sometimes i resent you and i’m sorry; i shouldn’t have blocked your number or said the things that i did. i never thought of myself as a spiteful person but i guess the truth is that i would cut off my own nose, you just weren’t the right blade.
i wrap the bad things around my heart again and again instead of letting them in but lately there is less and less space for the good things to slip through. sometimes they squeeze so hard that my blood stops and my vision swims and i can feel myself spinning off in the blackness. i’m unwinding; my thoughts and my molecules. i don’t think atoms feel anything but the pull of their own electrons and so i want to become oxygen and hydrogen and carbon, dispersed in the sun and in the wind and in the ocean and in the earth. it’s the only way i can leave you without you ever having to let me go.
fog is polishing the street on its hands and knees.
there is a forehead of mailboxes. a throat of street lights.
your one thought is hunting with sharp teeth and keeps jumping
the back of your sleep until it bleeds. so now you’re awake.
the plans you make involve freeing a trapped rescue plan
and raising awareness of the eroding shoreline between sleeping
and this wakefulness. some, you’ve read, have actually moved their beds
farther from the sea. some are bringing sleep in by the milligram
and wedging support beams up against their dreams. but still.
you’re awake in a city bridged to another city with a serpent of water
between them. if you are to trust your eyes, you’ve aged,
and the window is nothing but the trees of your childhood
reflected on your face, the street light a jewel in the middle
of your forehead. who knew what you’d grow into?
there were opinions. those who heard you sing lingered
in doorways to hear more and thought you were destined
to doctor the wings of unmigrated wounds. others, who tasted your soup,
believed you to be a light brightening the darkness of strangers.
your name, with the right shorelines, is the original harbour
for home. this city you chose is up to its balconies in the heavy breath
of ocean. sleep is retreating and, in the marsh around midnight, it’s you
who’s standing in the hallway, watching windows pronounce this new era
with their sudden lights, melting.
this is lying at the bottom of the ocean. i’ve put stones in my pockets. no, it’s my bones that are heavy. or maybe it’s the weight of all the words i robbed of their shape when i locked all my emotions behind my eyes. wait, no, the ocean is too big. this is lying at the bottom of a backyard swimming pool. this is lying at the bottom of your bathtub. if i stretched out my arm i could break the surface of my sadness and if i opened my eyes i would see you looking down at me. but i am too heavy and you might not be the type of person to walk in on someone while they are bathing. or i have clothes on. which makes more sense? i hope i am not naked.
this is how my thoughts have been lately. sunlight broken over water. i mean refracted. but it’s the same. it’s the difference between drowning in the ocean and drowning in a bathtub. so you pull me out. my eyes are wide. i’m blinking. my mouth is wide. i’m gasping. i am like a fish and i am choking. you breathe air into my lungs and i cling to you. we are the points where our bodies are pressed together. water drops and tear drops. your shirt is soaking wet. i hope i am not naked.
i keep saying that but i don’t care if i’m naked. isn’t that silly? i want you to think i’m silly, to think that i’m okay when actually i am still lying at the bottom of your bathtub. no. it must be my bathtub. you don’t exist and i am not strong enough to reach for my own hand. not yet.
you fold in upon yourself. pillowcases
as envelopes. notes slipped in with
the feathers. swirl of unwashed sheets, dirt
road out the window. red flagged flipped
like even the mailbox is hitching a ride
out of here. seals licked shut. the wasp speaks
to wake us: a wing rub, a one-note drone.
looseleaf fan, accordion pleats, floor-length
floral. paintbrush tips of a niece’s braids
caught in the clothesline ghosts, games
of tag startling intimate fabrics.
inchworms drip from doubled-up hems.
the wasp drowns in your little bit of courage,
finger of rum from the night before.
closet empty except for a paperback
and a striped tie. you dress for the funeral.
later, i ease buttons through buttonholes.
the program flutters away from your chest.
you fold in upon yourself as the milk expires
and the news repeats. the house next door
was demolished slowly, nail by nail,
frequent smoke breaks. now all that remains-
a heap of cast-iron radiators, the heat gone
from them. heavy what gets left behind.