Wolves

You will kill me.
Break me apart and hollow me
Or devour me bit by bit
Until not even bones are left,
You will kill me
And you will convince me
That I like it.

Rip my soul apart
Until I no longer believe
It ever existed,
And you will love me
With words only
You would kill me
And I would let you.

You will kill me,
Sinking your teeth into me
Engorging yourself on
My sweet stupidity.
You will kill me.
I will let you.
I will like it.

Drowning

Sink or swim, they said.
You can’t hold his hand
He is not yours.

They expected you would
Stay afloat.
They expected you would
Save yourself.

You are drowning
And I cannot save you.

Sink or swim, they said
You cannot hold his hand
He is not yours.

They did not say that you would sink.
They did not say that you would
Be too far gone to hear me.
They did not say that I would
Be tied to this anchor,
Unable to save you.

Sink or swim, I said.
You can’t hold his hand.
He is not yours.

You are drowning.
I heard you cry out
Saw the terror in your eyes
As you came up for a last
Goodbye.

You are drowning
Fading into nothing
Faster than I could reach you,
Were I able to wrench myself
From the anchor
Dragging me under.

I did not tell you that
You would sink
Alone.
I did not tell you that
I could not save you.
I did not tell you
That I could not swim.

monster

I have been born and I have died a thousand times. Millions of prayers have gone up against me, praying to he who has never cared for them, praying that he grants one wish.
I imagine Frankenstein’s monster, nameless as I am nameless.
What pain he felt when hewn together by the castaways and broken things.
Made to be a monster, from ashes he was not created, and to ash he could not return.
From afar I hear their voices and I wonder if I could ask their god to save me.
I am a monster and no whole pieces are in me; even my soul is made of excess.
I wonder if I should ask for my mother, but she is nowhere and does not exist to me and what would I say.
They want my words to carry; my words are more than my name. I will haunt their vision little; my words will be immortalized.
I give them nothing and they will mark me out of history entirely.
I will be a monster.
In the darkness of my own mind I am alone but I am not lonely.
In my mind is the veil and it lifts in anticipation.
I am soon to join them in everything or nothing.
Her gaze pierces my flesh before they do and I wonder if she will find peace.
I am what they say; I must be, because I hope that she does not.
She will take the image of me sleeping and it will be her salvation. He answered her in my death.
A life for a life.
I do not wish to go easy or at all. A slow moving ice travels my veins and it is the last touch I will feel.
I have imagined this moment and at first it seemed a peaceful thing, to know. A mercy.
It is not. I have prayed to their god and hoped that he would hate me as they do and take back my soul and recreate me in the image that he used to create them.
He did not. I am a monster.
I have avoided her last moments because I do not wish them to be mine.
Was I there for hers? That is the question that they ask but it remains unanswered.
Does it matter now? Did it ever?
I am a monster, hewn together from her pieces.
I have borne and I have died death a thousand times over. Do not
Do not
Do not
Resurrect me
Again.
Do not give my name to God as evidence of
The wrong or right. Leave me there, nameless if you must.
Frankenstein’s monster should not go to my grave.
If only my heart bury the human pieces that are left.

There is no light now, but maybe it will come after.
Maybe there is a place for me.
Maybe I will return

laid bare

When last we met I kissed you, but nothing was shared. Our lips met for a moment painful in its brevity, and for an instant, a particle of dust in time my life’s air passed between us.

My finger was naked, the ring left on the bedside table. You didn’t mention the pale sliver left in its absence, the permanent scar the ring made.

Your foot nudged my own and the contact robbed me of all rational thought.

From afar I wondered how I came to be there. What madness drove me to you? What insanity kept me?

From there I wondered only that I did not notice us in time, there I wondered about the strength that the barrier of marriage made. Would it hold against us? Would it keep you out?

Out of the window we watched a summer Georgia rain–a painfully short, too warm rain that leaves you breathless and wanting–pass us by, wishing that we were both in it. Had I believed in sin I would have wanted the water to baptize me, or wash away all trace of you.

The memory of you still burned my lips.

Red clay washed the sidewalk in its burnt orange hue; the sky was painted an angry, bitter gray. Cream and ivory magnolias hung heavy on the trees flanked by deep earthen green, and dense streaks of yellow pollen trailed down the glass of frozen cars.

We stood together, desperate for color, aching to leave our monochromatic selves. The only sound between us was the cry of rain.

No word seemed large enough to give to you when last we met; under my breastbone I discerned the pain of my heart thrashing against its cage. Even the tears of the heavens could not drown its sound. I wondered if you could hear it also.

Drawn together we turned, the rain falling against the pane as tears I could not shed.

You stole my breath and I hated you.

My hatred streaked across the sky and we both cried out. You took my hand in yours and I noted the softness beneath the callouses and you said it was because of the years you spent carving me from granite. I broke you again and again, you said, and yet you could not leave me unfinished.

You did not say then that you hated me.

You kissed me and everything was shared and I knew how much you hated me; you pulled the breath from me and a dam broke and the tears of heaven could not rival mine. You forced yourself into me, ripping into my sinews and past, injecting yourself into the marrow in my bones, tearing my soul to pieces, taking parts with you so that it would not be whole again.

You have never known my body and I want you to; you pillage my soul and it will not heal. My lips burn as you pull away from me and your eyes do not meet mine.

She walks in and I see her ring as it steals light from the sun. She belongs to you, will have your name and your life soon but you do not belong to her. Your gaze pierces the scar that the ring made and I feel naked again.

You pretend not to know me and in your eyes you hate me. She belongs to you but you belong to me and I only want to belong somewhere and you hate me.

When last we met it was summer and there was rain enough to baptize me or to wash you from me.

The ring compresses my finger and I am property, and in part I belong to him. You have the rest and I hate you.

I imagine your lips and your soul and the thrashing that only you produce and the peak that only you have shown or seen and

I remember that the kiss was your goodbye. You said goodbye and I said nothing and I miss you and you do not miss me and I hate you.

unconditional

She held on to her shame for an age, long past the moment where they could smile about her foolishness, long past the point where it might come up in conversation organically. She holds it beneath the surface, pressing it down into the recesses of her mind.
When it, the shame, comes again she picks at it like a scab. Perhaps it will flake off and heal over and she might be free of it.
There was nothing particularly remarkable about Jonathan save for him being there and her being here, and there being preferable to here no matter the circumstances. She tries to rifle through her brain, pinpointing the moment that she told herself the lie large enough to believe—he will be there, he will come—but she can’t. He held the title Daddy (noun, not to be confused with Father, bearer of discipline and occasional smiles but mostly apathy and Ask Your Mothers; Daddy, ever present bearer of love and presence) without earning it, but she did not consider.
She considered with childlike naiveté Terence in the spaces made large by Daddy’s absence; bringer of piggyback rides and games, bicycles and endless slides in the park.
But Daddy was taken and she couldn’t place him and he was Terence, the all encompassing being.
Daddy was the shadow.
Still she waited with her childlike innocence, remembering the smile in his voice as he promised her for the third year, “I sent your cake. It’s in the mail.”
A lump forms in her throat in the space of the years—not for want of the cake. No. It would have likely spoiled and he wouldn’t know her favorite besides.
No, the lump forms because of the perfect nature of hindsight and she was eight that last time and she wonders how many birthdays and moments by the mailbox she could have saved if she had only known to look past unearned titles.
She waited in the heat of the day for the cake. Not the cake. But the being that sent the cake. Perhaps he would be. . .what?
Piggyback rides and games, bicycles and endless slides, sound discipline that sent her to bed crying forgotten in the morning with tickles—those were taken.
But the title, Daddy, it was taken also.
She waited for an age.
In her memory it was winter when she discovered more than the cake’s absence.
Daddy felt thick and sickly on her tongue and she tried but she could not make it fit.
He became “you.”

How are You? I called You.

Daddy was ruined, made into shadows and lost things and promises not kept.
She tried Daddy on Terence once, but it was an ill-fitting suit and already destroyed.
Dad was too soft and distant, and late.
She doesn’t remember now where it came from, Pops, only the way it felt. A warm sweater. Safety. Home.
Pops (noun. unconditional. love.)
Long after Daddy dies she considers revealing its death. She wants to apologize for the time wasted. She wants to explain but the words do not exist. Pops did not fill the space that Jonathan left.
It was not Jonathan’s to leave.
But she does not have the words and so she says nothing, remembering now and again her shame, the time she wasted.
They are surrounded by family that she doesn’t care to know when it sloughs off and leaves her, in the midst of unfamiliar relatives and the scent of Alabama.
“You look like your dad,” unremarkable relative remarks, forgetting for a moment, or perhaps relative never knew. She smiles gratefully and her shame is released.
Pops, and I know,” she replies.

nests

I was twelve when I knew
That I was dying.
Not then.
But One Day.
A game we played spread blood
Across the screen, angry white
You Lose covering the poorly rendered body.
A three pronged controller slipped from my fingers and yanked me from childhood
And I knew.
Don’t think about it, were my mothers well intentioned words.
You can’t stop the birds from flying over your head but you can stop them from
Making a nest.
She told me to pray.
The God that loved her never spoke to me
But at twelve I begged him.
I begged him to stop the birds flying.
They did not.
They became a part of me and they were silent
For awhile.

When I was one and twenty they attacked again
And I knew that I was dying
And I felt the squeezing in my chest
And the lightening of my body
And I watched myself
And them
And they stared.
And I was crazy.
And she laughed
And I wasn’t praying enough.
And I couldn’t stop the birds from flying but I could stop them making a nest.

Demons, she said.

Six years later
They have come again
And I am older and weaker
And I have tried to stop them.
I have not given them a home
But they are there besides.
I’m afraid I’m losing it, I tell her, and she does not ask what it is. I want her to.
I want her to tell me that I won’t be this way always.
That I’ll grow out of it.
That I’ll hear Him talk to me.
That he’ll speak and I’ll be better.
That he’ll be real.
That I’ll exist always.

She laughs at the memory of the first time. Remembering how they stared.
How embarrassed she was.

“You can’t stop the birds from flying,” she says, as I disappear into myself. “But you can stop them from building a nest.”

god’s gift

That we were both of us in love with him didn’t matter then.
Sticky red wet dripped lazily down my fingers and onto my thighs and he watched and bit down on his bottom lip until it was as red as the popsicle forgotten in my hand and when he pressed his lips against me our teeth glanced off of each other but I didn’t want to pull away and our kiss was sloppy at first and my heart froze in my chest, my stomach landing somewhere on the other side of the earth and finally we detangled and he caught my sigh.

His hands traveled lower and it crossed my mind that god would tell my mother but that he wouldn’t get to her fast enough and then it traveled farther and trembled before pressing into my core and even if it wasn’t good it was good because it was him and I was with him and the popsicle wasn’t the only kind of wet and the ache was painfully enthralling and I felt him heavy above me and I smelled his scent clinging to me

and then I woke up and his scent was gone but the ache remained.
Later when I told her (I kept the after for myself) the kiss was much more. The scent of magnolia enveloping us and my hair swept my shoulders as he dragged his fingers through it loving its texture, not caring that it was coarse and not at all silky and blonde like the girls he was used to. We shared him, our secret, and sharing didn’t matter then.
His eyes were ocean cerulean and as deep (but when my mother asked I told her they were brown) and his skin was pale peach (but I told her that that was brown, too, avoiding the You Only Like White Boys accusation), and under the table between watching ships at a distance with every man’s wish on board and longing for the orgastic green light his fingers passed against mine long and cool, finally resting palm to palm, our pulses quick but really the same.
She wanted a title. My fingers still pulsed, throbbed from the weight of his fingers linked in mine and “what are we” reverberated through me but could not make it out and I shrugged and told her “friends,” because that was the desperate truth.
Friends tasted like acid on my tongue and I spit it out for her, but for him I swallowed it, a bitter pill, and pretended it was what I wanted.
We nicknamed him Parker Benjamin Gaylord, III because it was much more classic and him and nerd-sexy than “William” and we could fall into peals of laughter and pass notes with Parker Benjamin Gaylord, III is (insert vulgarity here) that he might find but would never understand. We were enticed by his khakis and the black shirt that was made for his body and I felt the press of him there all the time but still I kept that for myself and still he touched my hand and I shared that with her because he was there and we were here and even though he held my hand and our lips may have touched and. . .both of us in love with him didn’t matter then.

Over the partially reconstructed song recorded from the radio we planned. To find out, she murmured, if he really likes you.
The Boyfriend we invented went to another school. He didn’t have a name. We didn’t give him a story.
“Did you hear,” she asked him. “What happened to her?”
The quickness of his response was not enough. “What happened?!”
“She was in an accident. With her boyfriend.”
He turned away and did not speak to her again.
Our next words were exchanged over the distance of months and books and curses.

Fuck you! Fuck you.
Over and over again and not in the way that either of us wanted.
She backed away, but not before whispering, “I think he loved you.”
As the tendrils of me escaped and fell to pieces my mother’s words lay over me like a blanket.
“Never play a game you aren’t willing to lose.”
***
Our eyes met before I crossed the stage; I held his too long, wanting to remember them. He closed his and turned away from me.
***
They are as cerulean as I remember, and his hair sweeps across his brow and his half smile meets me. My heart loses itself but I cannot make myself smile.
His falters but does not fade as his eyes rest on her. My hands tremble as I give her what she asks for. She slips the ring onto his finger and his eyes meet mine again.

She drinks too much and is in the bushes, her bridesmaids holding her hair. We hold eyes again.
He doesn’t ask me to dance and I don’t wish him to.
“You will be so happy together,” I offer him, an olive branch. He does not take it.
“I loved you,” he states, and I hear the words from far away. She stumbles toward him, her eyes too glazed to catch they way we watch each other.
“I love you so much,” she yells at him, and he smiles.
“I love you, too.” Presently. He loved me then. He loves her now.
I love him now.
That we were both of us in love with him didn’t matter.

Then.