my head is filled,
it burns my throat,
it’s all that i can smell
licks its way across my ribs,
slithers down my sides
it crawls, glides,
drags, pushes itself to my planes
i twitch, i writhe
everything it touches,
i am left
pieces fall, tinkering softly
sound fades into nothing
no bottom reached
the void’s eyes bore into yours
sharp points paired, truth
flashing through them
deep into your being
the void sees you
by forces abstract, negative gravity
rational existential deterministic
you want to drink the world
inhale thoughts of dead astronomers
the universe crawling under your skin
concrete abstract, interwoven
cross-stitched into your helixes
etched into the atoms
shoots through nothing,
unknowing dripping thickly
slashes through perception
blade puncturing membrane, viscera
spills out leaving you gaping,
you fall at its feet, merciless
blinding, harsh beauty
freedom in truth, surrender to
I think I left my last genuine laugh
at the Chinese buffet
the way we unclenched our jaws
and clutched our stomachs
faces turning red, or maybe it was orange
because of the poor lighting but despite that,
we still looked so radiant underneath it
and that’s how I like
to remember you
and me, so full
in every aspect of the word,
in every aspect of the world
we were immaculate
and what these memories conjure from me
are feelings akin to
sweet and sour
and I think I figured out
why my mother insists that I come home before 12
come home before I get too drunk to
remember what month it is, come home before
I remind myself that my
dignity had unprotected sex with
every poisonous entity in my life,
under the influence of misery
Come home before I remember
the way you drummed your fingers on
every surface it touched, the way
they felt like petals rubbing against my skin
I’m clenching my teeth just remembering
how your hands were able to dream like
cherry blossoms awakening in the presence of spring,
thriving underneath the fragrance of the sun
but even after you detangled your legs from mine
you still had to have thought of me
with each strand of my hair
sleeping on your pillow
my pantyhose lying dormant on the back
of your chair
my fingerprints on your car window
the glitter from my dress coruscating
on the surface of everything it ever touched
I’m reminded of you.
And I think to myself,
you sure do know how to bring a girl to her knees
you sure do know how to make her weep
into her own taffeta gown,”
You think that to me,
you were merely a phone number etched
on the inside of an 8th grader’s palm,
when really, you were
bible verse murals and
prayer hands of ceramic figurines
resting on bookshelves,
your name resonates
with the sound of bookshelves
a silent thud,
or multiple silent thuds
of your fingers drumming on everything it ever touched
my dignity, my soul, the silent thud
of my self-esteem
by mariko bean
1. I left my favorite pair of underwear at your house. I know your mother hates me, can I come pick them up?
2. It’s been almost a month and I still miss you like a fucking limb.
3. I didn’t know my bones could ache until I met you.
4. You know, a week before we broke up, do you remember? I had bought a book of poetry. You asked why I didn’t read something more interesting and I could feel my insides splinter.
5. You said poetry was all lies dressed up to sound pretty. When I look at you these days, I want to ask if sadness sounds pretty to you too.
6. It’s 3 a.m. and this alcohol tastes like you.
7. I saw you staring at me today during Lit class. I smiled at you and you didn’t smile back. I almost cried.
8. The girl who sits next to me smells like you.
9. I miss you.
10. I have never had so many bad nights.
11. Sometimes I write poetry about you on the internet. Strangers who have never met either of us think you’re cruel – they tell me if they had the honor of loving me, we’d have sex three times a day and they’d scream my name when they came.
12. They think it is beautiful, how I am broken. I don’t think they understand.
13. You used to tell me I was beautiful. I tried saying it in the mirror the other day, but it sounded wrong without your mouth wrapped around it.
14. Everything I say sounds wrong without your mouth wrapped around it.
15. We were never in love, but, oh God, we could have been.
by walt whitman
Someday I will stop being young and wanting stupid tattoos.
There are 7 people in my house. We each have different genders. I cut my hair over the bathroom sink and everything I own has a hole in it. There is a banner in our living room that says “Love Cats Hate Capitalism.” We sit around the kitchen table and argue about the compost pile and Karl Marx and the necessity of violence when The Rev comes. Whatever the fuck The Rev means.
Every time my best friend laughs I want to grab him by the shoulders and shout “Grow old with me and never kiss me on the mouth!” I want us to spend the next 80 years together eating Doritos and riding bikes. I want to be Oscar the Grouch. I want him and his girlfriend to be Bert and Ernie. I want us to live on Sesame Street and I will park my trash can on their front stoop and we will be friends every day. If I ever seem grouchy it’s just because I am a little afraid of all that fun.
There is a river running through this city I know as well as my own name. It’s the first place I’ve ever called home. I don’t think its poetry to say I’m in love with the water. I don’t think it’s poetry to say I’m in love with the train tracks. I don’t think it’s blasphemy to say I see God in the skyline.
There is always cold beer asking to be slurped on back porches.
There are always crushed packs of Marlboro’s in my back pockets. I have been wearing the same patched-up shorts for 10 days.
Someday I will stop being young and wanting stupid tattoos.
(no please not again)
loss changes you
(no no no)
post-mourning fear disorder
(not another one)
will it get better,
(i beg you)
or just worse?
how can it get worse
it already feels like death
what’s worse than death?
i guess there’s one thing
crimson sweet, escaping through a crack and swelling over. waves, calm and sinister. it intrudes. flooding. devouring. the lens is red and you’re drowning. you’re drowning. in the end, thoughts do not die. they go on and on, ghosting through you. names cut deep. they do. packages contain. restrain, keep safe. labeling. liebling. the warmth shooting from a chest, a core, and enveloping you. arms envelope you. warmth that has never been experienced, yet is felt in gusts. a ghost memory. a phantom life. a premonition, maybe. it’s something that isn’t right yet, but can be. and all will be well. digits run on and on, coding the entangled chaos that is life. structures are poetry. prediction is meaning. that’s the way that it’s supposed to be. pieces falling – not scattering, but slotting. it brings peace. like the stilling of an ocean. the quiet of a nighttime. quiet. quiet.
You will be out with friends
when the news of her existence
will be accidentally spilled all over
your bar stool. Respond calmly
as if it was only a change in weather,
a punch line you saw coming.
After your fourth shot of cheap liquor,
leave the image of him kissing another woman
in the toilet.
In the morning, her name will be
in every headline: car crash, robbery, flood.
When he calls you, ignore the hundreds of ropes
untangling themselves in your stomach.
You are the best friend again. He invites
you over for dinner and you say yes
too easily. Remind yourself this isn’t special,
it’s only dinner, everyone has to eat.
When he greets you at the door, do not think
for one second you are the reason
he wore cologne tonight.
In his kitchen, he will hand-feed you
a piece of red pepper. His laugh
will be low and warm and it will make you
feel like candlelight. Do not think this is special.
Do not count on your fingers the number
of freckles you could kiss too easily.
Try to think of pilot lights and olive oil,
not everything you have ever loved about him,
or it will suddenly feel boiling and possible
and so close. You will find her bobby pins
laying innocently on his bathroom sink.
Her bobby pins. They look like the wiry legs
of spiders, splinters of her undressing
in his bed. Do not say anything.
Think of stealing them, wearing them
home in your hair. When he hugs you goodbye,
let him kiss you on the forehead.
Settle for target practice.
At home, you will picture her across town
pressing her fingers into his back
like wet cement. You will wonder
if she looks like you, if you are two bedrooms
in the same house. Did he fall for her features
like rearranged furniture? When he kisses her,
does she taste like wet paint?
You will want to call him.
You will go as far as holding the phone
in your hand, imagine telling him
unimaginable things like you are always
ticking inside of me and I dream of you
more often than I don’t.
My body is a dead language
and you pronounce
each word perfectly.
Do not call him.
Fall asleep to the hum of the VCR.
She must make him happy.
She must be
She must be his favorite place in Minneapolis.
You are a souvenir shop, where he goes
to remember how much people miss him
when he is gone.
at first, it was curiosity. the sight of his seared, colored arm startled me. red roses, thorned and proud as the most triumphant of beauty queens, waving its lack of care to the world. no i’m not a cliché, i’m a classic.
then it was the looks. his stare struck me. not once, not twice, and not even three times. i was hit, sunk, heavy drop to the ground. shocked but not electrocuted, just left laying. a sacrificial lamb. i was buzzing with the energy of attention. it wasn’t his looks. this man with the roses branded on his arm and was that something else? it wasn’t his looks. it was the looks. i was there. i was seen. and as i sauntered past him, a lioness brave, the adrenalin coursed, sending sparks with every straightening vertebra in my back. i walked tall. electricity.
it turned into a game. a cat and mouse between me, myself, and him. i teased, i leered, i waited. pushed and twisted, i wanted him to fold. this man, who, perhaps, was more than the roses on his arm, other lines and dimensions. he was always on my right, and he responded. pulling and turning me, pushing my buttons eagerly. all of them. he was a child, and i was an elevator, going to every floor as they flashed a bright white. i wouldn’t have to crane, maybe bend a little, to kiss him. i would have to push, hard, to hear the sound of his back hitting the wall. the fantasy was my toy, and playing with it was my favorite pastime. i was the cat, and i wanted the cream. meow.
the game was between me and myself, and him. except that we weren’t playing the same game at all. the field crumbled. a girlfriend, and a skull dragged out of its cover, mockingly breathing out its decay. a cliché. it was over, and i had lost. had won. had lost. had won. along with the others, this possibility was buried. “those who could have been but never were.” it was lost.
sometimes, i still play the game between me, myself and him. i trick, i taunt, i wait. and i catch him glancing to his left. looking at the vacant space where i used to be, but not finding me. and once again, my spine crackles with the electricity. maybe a little is his looks. but mostly, it’s the looks. i still don’t know what game he’s playing. but i’m winning.
All the cows were falling out of the sky and landing in the mud.
You were drinking sangria and I was throwing oranges at you,
but it didn’t matter.
I said my arms are very long and your head’s on fire.
I said kiss me here and here and here
And you did.
Then you wanted pasta,
so we trampled out into the tomatoes and rolled around to make the sauce.
You were very beautiful.
We were in the Safeway parking lot. I couldn’t find my cigarettes.
You said Hurry up! but I was worried there would be a holdup
And we would be stuck in a hostage situation, hiding behind
the frozen meats, with nothing to smoke for hours.
You said Don’t be silly,
so I followed you into the store.
We were thumping the melons when I heard somebody say Nobody move!
I leaned over and whispered in your ear I told you so.
There was a show on the television about buried treasure.
You were trying to convince me that we should buy shovels
and go out into the yard
and I was trying to convince you that I was a vampire.
On the way to the hardware store I kept biting your arm
and you said if I really was a vampire I would be biting your neck,
so I started biting your neck
and you said Cut it out!
and you bought me an ice cream, and then we saw the UFO.
These are the dreams we should be having. I shouldn’t have to
clean them up like this.
You were lying in the middle of the empty highway.
The sky was red and the sand was red and you were wearing a brown coat.
There were flecks of foam in the corners of your mouth.
The birds were watching you.
Your eyes were closed and you were listening to the road and I could
hear your breathing, I could hear your heart beating.
I carried you to the car and drove you home but you
weren’t making any sense
I took a shower and tried to catch my breath.
You were lying on top of the bedspread
in boxer shorts, watching cartoons and laughing but not making any sound.
Your skin looked blue in the television light.
Your teeth looked yellow.
Still wet, I lay down next to you. Your arms, your legs, your naked chest,
your ribs delineated like a junkyard dogs.
There’s nowhere to go, I thought. There’s nowhere to go.
You were sitting in a bathtub at the hospital and you were crying.
You said it hurt.
I mean the buildings that were not the hospital.
I shouldn’t have mentioned the hospital.
I don’t think I can take this much longer.
In the dream I don’t tell anyone, you put your head in my lap.
Let’s say you’re driving down the road with your eyes closed
but my eyes are also closed.
You’re by the side of the road.
You’re by the side of the road and you’re doing all the talking
while I stare at my shoes.
They’re nice shoes, brown and comfortable, and I like your voice.
In the dream I don’t tell anyone, I’m afraid to wake you up.
In these dreams it’s always you:
The boy in the sweatshirt,
The boy on the bridge, the boy who always keeps me
from jumping off the bridge.
Oh, the things we invent when we are scared
and want to be rescued.
Your jeep. Your teeth. The coffee that you bought me.
The sandwich cut in half on the plate.
I woke up and ate ice cream in the dark,
hunched over on the wooden chair in the kitchen,
listening to the rain.
I borrowed your shoes and didn’t put them away.
You were crying and eating rice.
The surface of the water was still and bright.
Your feet were burning so I put my hands on them, but my hands
were burning too.
You had a bottle of pills but I wouldn’t let you swallow them.
You said Will you love me even more when Im dead?
And I said No, and I threw the pills on the sand.
Look at them, you said. They look like emeralds.
I put you in a cage with the ocelots. I was trying to fatten you up
with sausages and bacon.
Somehow you escaped and climbed up the branches of a pear tree.
I chopped it down but there was nobody in it.
I went to the riverbed to wait for you to show up.
You didn’t show up.
I kept waiting.
my africa is a bruised, but not broken creature. filled with pain, used and abused by so many. my africa is being taken advantage of by the white man, made fun of by the white man, milked and marketed by the white man. my africa is men owning women, adulthood owning children, reality owning people. my africa is low education, low economy, low survival. low low low.
my africa is blood flowing in the water. it’s sweat nourishing the earth. it’s tears watering the seeds. my africa is death.
and it’s life.
my africa is burning – it’s as bright as the sun. my africa is hurting, but it’s alive.
it’s love and celebration and not giving up. my africa is a warrior. a protector, glowing with the power within. my africa is fathers. mothers. sons, daughters,brotherssisters.
my africa is family. and it’s wealth. it’s richness worth the world and more. my africa is high heritage, high culture, high vitality. high high high.
my africa is endless pride. it’s the twinkle in an eye. it’s the joy in a laugh. it’s the warmth in an embrace. my africa is mindbodyandsoul.
and it’s heart.
my africa is a bloodied diamond, soiled but as brilliant as ever. a bruised, but not broken creature. my africa is
just finished the transcript of this poem, written and preformed by frankie reese. it took a while, but it was worth it. i long for the day when i can make art as achingly beautiful as hers.
hopes and dreams are only hopes and dreams until you help them become your reality. i was hoping we would have changed with the times. somehow, some way kept up with the ripples and wrinkles in life, but it seems as though high tide has gotten the better of both you and i. and perhaps we were nothing but casualties in an unfair game of love and war; left to drift away at sea; sinking under the weight of our own shortcomings. set ablaze by our brethren like vikings.
but i figured by now i would have been reborn, drifted somewhere ashore to start anew and love some more. i thought you would have hung up your jersey, quit doing bitches dirty. i thought you wouldn’t do to them all the things you’ve done to hurt me. war crimes for which you’re sure you’ll pay a price, in a distant reality not yet spawned. the approaching dawn tonight, three years too long. the final chord and the longest song ever recorded.
let’s see. well that was my own fault, the hasteless night had me thinking crazy. how could have i have been so cruel to my baby? my foolish heart had my rationale in a half nelson from the start. who would have thought we’d have drifted so terribly far apart it’s united – we feel each other’s tessellations. how could we have been so shameless? mislabeled the nameless beauty that lingered in and around and all over our oneness. but that was then and i suppose this is now – but how?
i’ve been jaded a shade so sea green i don’t even recognize my own reflection, don’t know the girl staring back at me – fuck, this is one hell of a lesson. i feel as though i’ve been dissected and laid out for everyone to see. oh captain, my captain, you’ve made such a fool of me. first maidy or lady, i would have never abandoned ship, but what you said went so… so be it. and so would went one long hard year you spent living rent free in my head, pirating my happiness. but i digress.
perhaps we’re in a time warp; perhaps i’ve gone mad; perhaps i’m drowning, but there’s no knowing. couldn’t tell you in which direction i am going. can’t distinguish the difference between sinking and floating. what’s a girl like me to do? do i ask for help or proudly struggle in deep waters?
but maybe this is just what happens when captains abandon ship; maybe we deserve this ship; maybe we live as reminders in each other’s heads to never, not ever leave anyone for dead. for they will haunt you every last second of every last day. i’m tugboating a ghost ship with a crew so cruel they call themselves memories and they always fucking with me. and i try to ignore them but they come rushing, pouring inside my head. a constant reminder of the dead, whispering things to me that were left unsaid. the torment is ceaseless. my silent demons, my ailments, they’re help and i’m killing their captain who’s abandoned ship. is this, could it be my perpetual punishment?
and yeah, i believe in second chances and advancements but these phantoms have got it out for me. does it feel the same way on your end of the sea? can you sympathize with me? oh captain, my captain, do you still have an anchor? or are you too capsizing and diving into an ocean of emotions and compensating numbness with peculiar potions like your former first maidy? do we feel the same tug and pull from the same pale moon? do your tides rise and recede? does your crew, too, torment thee?
we need some sort of way out. we need to find the lighthouse, a harbor where we can both dock these ships forever – forget about bad weather and the conditions of being who we once were.
My fire-eating career came to an end
when I could no longer tell
when to spit and when
Last night in Amsterdam,
1,000 tulips burned to death.
I have an alibi. When I walked by
your garden, your hand
grenades were in bloom.
You caught me playing
loves me, loves me
not, metal pins between my teeth.
I forget the difference
ignition and cognition. I am a girl
vices and you have a filthy never
mind. If you say no, twice,
it’s a four-letter word.
You are so dirty, people have planted
flowers on you: heliotropes. sun-
flowers. You’ll take
anything. Loves me,
loves me not.
I want to bend you over
and whisper: “potting soil,” “fresh
cut.” When you made
the urgent fists of peonies
a proposition, I stole a pair of botanists’
hands. Green. Confident. All thumbs.
I look sharp in garden
shears and it rained spring
all night. 1,000 tulips
burned to death
We didn’t hear the sirens.
All night, you held my alibis
so softly, like taboos
by daphne gottlieb
I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed:
And on the pedestal these words appear:
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.
Ozymandias, by percy bysshe shelley
destructive not quite destruction induce feeling push, push, push harder but not too hard, never too hard just hard enough to tickle that nerve trigger the thrill push, push and be wrong unleash the rushes chase them beat the heart so it beats back ride the high caffeine flow, needle drill brain, nerves, blood, skin bring the pain so it screams back push, push harder make life push back wake the fuck up and for god’s sake never fall asleep
the vulnerability. chills.
- Offer the wolves your arm only from the elbow down. Leave tourniquet space. Do not offer them your calves. Do not offer them your side. Do not let them near your femoral artery, your jugular. Give them only your arm.
- Wear chapstick when kissing the bomb.
- Pretend you don’t know English.
- Pretend you never met her.
- Offer the bomb to the wolves. Offer the wolves to the zombies.
- Only insert a clean knife into your chest. Rusty ones will cause tetanus. Or infection.
- Don’t inhale.
- Realize that this love was not your trainwreck, was not the truck that flattened you, was not your Waterloo, did not cause massive hemorrhaging from a rusty knife. That love is still to come.
- Use a rusty knife to cut through most of the noose in a strategic place so that it breaks when your weight is on it.
- Practice desperate pleas for attention, louder calls for help. Learn them in English, French, Spanish: May Day, Aidez-Moi, AyÃºdeme.
- Don’t kiss trainwrecks. Don’t kiss knives. Don’t kiss.
- Pretend you made up the zombies, and only superheroes exist.
- Pretend there is no kryptonite.
- Pretend there was no love so sweet that you would have died for it, pretend that it does not belong to someone else now, pretend like your heart depends on it because it does. Pretend there is no wreck — you watched the train go by and felt the air brush your face and that was it. Another train passing. You do not need trains. You can fly. You are a superhero. And there is no kryptonite.
- Forget her name.
by daphne gottlieb