Beast in Kind

i always hear about this place
where self love is a gift
you can actually give yourself;
something with dimension
and weight,
something you can keep
and return to.

nobody ever told me
that it’s ok if i don’t know how
to love myself.

in the dark i draw a lonely circle
with gun powder
the size of a living room
and braid lighter fluid
through its tresses.
i strike a match
that sounds like a bell,
the ring a start
of an inquiry
meant to flower in fire.

i meet my memories
not in battle
but face to face
as fellow beasts
who can’t escape this place.
we will confront each other
or we will destroy each other
or we will perish in the fire.

i don’t remember learning
to hate myself.
i remember
a mother stressed and screaming,
retreating.
a mother changing medication,
hearing voices,
a million doors closing
at different pitches
depending on her memory or mood.
i remember fathers who didn’t want children,
fathers who wanted girls to be punching bags
or just tiny servants with tiny hands
holding up their heterosexuality.

i remember the affirmations, too,
the oscillating praise that detected perfection
but wouldn’t let me own
what it meant to be human.
buried amidst my god given insolence,
sometimes i wonder if i
was not a child but instead
malevolence
milking blood for worth.

i am trying to make new kinds of memories now,
to leave doors open
to loosen the flame lasso
constricting my wrists
and give my beasts room to roam.
maybe we will confront each other
or maybe we will destroy each other
or maybe they will kick out the windows,
let the flames breathe.

i don’t care about crushes
or moments of attraction that move through me.
lovers will never love me more
than i hate myself,
and i am trying to obscure the shame with smoke
and acceptance.

nobody ever told me it was ok
if i don’t know how to love myself,
so i am learning to collaborate
with fire.

Materialism

i decide
to ruin my body
before i give you
the chance

when the fear
seizes my blood
and suffocates my brain
i use the burn of
the cigarette
the whiskey
the razor
the end of sleep
and come back to myself

i reset
and try to control my
own flesh
in unproud punctuated moments
that turn living into
a hazy run on sentence

bodies make sense of words
in a particular way
mine uses
the force of history
to split my chest
and i knit ribbons through
the bony reliefs of my ribs
to anchor
a sensation that is not loss
i cast on to calcium masts
even though my body is wooden
a paralysis placed by
the repetition
of violence

bodies make sense of fear
in a particular way
my body is constantly tidying up the
purls unwound by exposure
my guts stored in an
ambiguous hull
i anticipate the punch
before the hand is raised
if my skin is the sail
and my body the boat
i freeze
while the rupture
i wait for
bludgeons this temporary
tattered blanket
that looks like a flag
shred from war

i am the enemy i cannot leave
whose strike is quick and calculated
doesn’t ask for
doesn’t need
doesn’t entirely know how to process
the freedom of hearing a no
the graciousness of uncertainty
or how to make a body bouyant
before it is drowned

Untitled

i think i am smoking away all of my brain cells
what i mean is that i am worried
i am turning inward
instead of outward
that my anxiety is making new anxiety
to befriend
instead of skinning it off my body
for a moment trying to breathe outside of its leather cloak
its suffocating coat

i do not know how to be an arrow
i only know how to name names
to read myself into the sky
to extend a shaky hand and then withdraw it
before we get to touch

i want to be a spectrum of light
a place we all meet
to arm ourselves with chosen weapons
to embrace each other and a certain efficacy

dreams of grandeur
only grand before i realize
i don’t know how to generate
a vision that materializes

i do not know how to be an arrow
i just have words

Untitled

i am in a boat
on an acid based lake

the chemosynthetic fouling organisms
nestle and burrow
making deep and beautiful
tangles of cuts
and weighted caverns
on the underside

the oars are toothpicks
dissolving
my patience waning
too

i am not sure i want to
make it back to shore
i am unsure i want my weight
to tangle and cut
through the water
i am sure i see my aging face
reflected in wrinkles and ripples

i am tired
of being told i put myself here
i am sleepy from holding the weight
of the water
with my feet

stress as a motivating force
is another wrinkle
cutting

cutting as a motivating force
is another wrinkle
being carved

time is an opportunity
an anxious future vision
propelling me through the water
the smell of the wood dissolving
a beautiful burning carbon musk

the oars cut
i am dizzy
i want to sleep
indefinitely

Montana

Your mother moved a strange man into your house from Montana
A love interest she met on the internet
They had only met in person once
for less than a week
She’s looking for love in all the wrong places
and you barely talk to her anymore
Can’t give her the social interactions she needs

She’s lonely and you see it
can smell the desperation
but a child isn’t a replacement for a community
your hands are too small
your skill set modeled on cavitied bones

Montana will defend you later
When she’s screaming and crying at you
because you left some crumbs
under the toaster
when you cleaned the kitchen

Your mother told you to pack to move to Florida
To be with a strange man she met on the internet
They had only met in person once
for less than a week
You find a naked picture of him in your scanner later
all tan and body hair and baby oil
She said she found out he was cheating on his wife
with three women in different states
wanted to out him
and abruptly stopped making plans
to move
You had already said your goodbyes to the desert

Your mother told you to pack for late summer
You are going to live in Bisbee with an artist
and work
She’s been talking to them on the internet
They haven’t met in person even once
but it might be character building
She forgets at the end of July
and your silent relief
is louder than your quiet cries of protest

Now you are grown
You’ve been to so many therapists
because you want to know
how to be consistently mothered
to receive care without
waking up and wondering where all the adults are
and you can’t do it by yourself
not yet

You’re lonely and you see it
Can smell the desperation
But a single-mother isn’t a replacement for a community
You know as much
that you are tired of feeling like
a backpack full of sand
while your mother
is trying to swim

Bow

Pull the skin from the corner of the ankle
into an even tear

Circle the calf
pulling flesh into lines
until you have a small rope

Tie fidgety hands together

Mitigate

And wipe up the blood

Siren Call

I’m always trying to get to the ocean in dreams
as in childhood
like it’s a mother full of secrets

At low tide
I can only see a tiny fraction of the
complicated relationships
I need to learn
and respect

Waves like a comforting come hither
and I know I need to be in the water

I am assessing how to move my limbs
heavy with sleep and dread
The demand of a physical presence
vigilant senses
arms that won’t wrap all the way around

I am always so pleased
when it reveals just a little of itself
to me

Rip the Wound Open

Rip the wound open.
Put some saw dust and meal worms in its gaping chasm.
Half-bury candles in the loose soil and light them.
Grate dead skin over the flame.
Keep your hair safe and covered.
Lay fresh cut flowers to dry out.
You are not making an explosive,
you are the explosive
and this altar is a fuse.

A pretend ritual for a pretend adult.

Bury it.
Maybe you’ll forget.

Bury it.
Leave it on the river bank.

Let the birds turn the mud
like compost.
The wick is a torch,
the wick will feed a fire so hot
that the ghosts of anger will exhume the flame
to melt the mud to liquid glass.
It hardens.
You harden.
A wound as a glass eye on the verge of splintering.

My anger is a less potent gasoline
I am still extracting out of water.
I need it to get me out of bed.
I need it to weaponized my words,
to make my hands knives with the
multiplicities of blade dance;
to ask for anything,
to not get lost.

My anger is a love
buried in a boneyard
full of worms and wounds.
It reminds me to touch those
that still visit.
That I have a stake in
the ways the world moves.

Rip the wound open
let a scale of sacredness slide out.
I am grateful
I am awful
I am angry
I am trying to get warm enough next to the flame
without getting burned.

Epigenetics

“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”
my mom asked nonchalantly.
“I used to,” she paused over the phone,
“but then I had you and Brandon,
and it just sort of stopped.”

My response was difficult to say out loud;
I am often not convinced I want to stay here.

“It’s just an impulse,” I said, trying to be honest,
letting her in a little bit.
“I know how to cut the leash that keeps me
quarantined
in the forsaken places
my body dumps me.
I am a sage,
a fighter,
a slippery trouble maker.”

I didn’t want to say that I wasn’t sure about the future,
that I hadn’t completely abandoned the idea.
I wanted her to think I was good at living,
getting better at it as an adult.
I didn’t want her to worry.

Brandon and I are in a hotel room
in another country
to bury our mother,
who took a bottle of pills
chased by a bottle of vodka
in a different hotel room,
but not before
she thoughtfully spread a plastic tarp
on the bed
so that the cleaning staff
would have an easier time
changing the sheets.

These are the ways in which my family are thoughtful.

“Have you ever thought about killing yourself?”
my brother asks pointedly.
“Sometimes I worry.”

He is making a late night sandwich
from the groceries we managed to acquire
on a shopping trip in which people kept smiling at us
and asking how we were doing.

I am pouring gin and biting my tongue.
I want to be so drunk that I don’t have to verbalize thought,
that my brother will intuit and accept
that I am deeply ambivalent about living,
but not because I don’t love him.

I suppose that’s what my mother would say.

As it stands I am sweating juniper
but I am still too sober.
I start to answer but I stop.
I start
and stop.
My hands are both cold and hot.

I find myself trying to wrestle with logic.
“Well, it’s likely I would have,
maybe,
but now things are different.
I couldn’t do that to you.
Not after this.”

I see the words leave my mouth
but I don’t believe them.

I don’t want anybody to worry.

That’s what my mom kept saying.

These are the ways in which my family are thoughtful.

The thing about silence is that
it’s never quiet,
just like to be mute
is not to be unintelligible.

Sometimes making sense is a fool’s journey,
and sometimes,
some of us,
the irresolute,
don’t want to make sense.
There is no good response to the question
how are you today?
There is no guaranteed outcome
of navigating this indecision.