The Marionette

At your leisure I danced.

I grinned earth wide

And my tears filled the deep craters

Torn into my rough hewn body

Chipped again and again by your strings.

You locked me away

And dust settled around me

And within me

And perhaps

When you drew me out again

You would remake me

Something more to your liking.

Perhaps I could be human this time

And you would love me?

At your leisure I performed,

And when I failed to please you

You painted over my lips

And used my mouth to spew your own words,

And the strings you strung and pulled

A noose about my neck

Stopped me screaming.

When at last I cobbled together a voice

From scraps you dropped beneath the table,

You crushed me under your heel.

You cut my strings

And ripped me apart, limb from limb.

Until I love you the way you demand—

Without desire or expectation—

You will hold my strings a guillotine,

And every breath I take

Will be a breath you have allowed;

And every step I take

Will be on legs you created;

And when I move just right

The perfect marionette,

You will share a sliver of your light

And shine your love on me,

And you will love me

And I will be worthy of love.

Of wanting.

In the pallid tension of a fragile dawn

That awakens stretching old legs beneath its tired sky

The wail of the mourning dove sounds the alarm,

Its hollow boned wings slicing the air, a guillotine.


I heed it not.


My resolve is already pulled like bootstraps,

Ill fitting and tattered, but

I have promised my mirror—today.


We have practiced our part a thousand times, my mirror and I.

We have ticked by uncounted hours of caught breaths and stolen smiles.

We have cracked its glass with smudged lipstick and clouded eyes.

We have lost one million days to wanting.

We have held conversations that only we know

And have imagined the tenor of your voice reserved only for us.


We are ready for the stage and perhaps you will know your part already?


In words that only I have heard

Deep in darkness, your lips pressed to the shell of my ear,

You have almost said as much.


Haloed by sun, sticky with humid summer heat

You, Adonis, and I, Medusa.

I find myself stone before you.



I would compare you to a summer’s day, but

You compare me to a bit character in a movie you like first.


It isn’t the movie you love.


Your love pricks sweet like knives in legs I wear for you—

It is devastating and gorgeous and I drown with want of it.

I know it because I am near enough to its warmth to glimpse it and know it,

Though it does not know me.

When you recount the character in the movie you like well enough

Your eyes don’t steady and you don’t soften and pause, remembering.

But you like it well enough and you offer the part to me.


I had words that would draw you irrevocably to me

But I lost the line.

I sold the best parts of myself for ill fitting pieces,

And besides we are surrounded and watched.

Therefore a chasm rests safely between us

In the event that together, we are seen.


I am white noise in the periphery of you.


I turn you over and remake you in my mind for hours.

The part and place was yours and it is now mine and it is precious.


You promise me one night.

We will dance, your fingers laced in mine

And under the diaphanous gaze of every star I have ever wished upon

We will be seen.


“Wow,” is all you manage and the word carries me forever.


We do not share the dance.

Your finger tugs mine in the dark and that small moment

Becomes every moment—

And infinite




But in the naked whiteness of light it is gone and we divide.


Years pass with the burning swiftness of a

Southern sun in summer,

And we play out our lives parallel.


I hold the myth of you to me until I find there is no room for

Specters in my ruins.

I bring you to daylight and I recount the tale of you.


I share you in a sacred space—

An offering.

A confession.

As the steam laps at my scalp

And the gentle crown of coils is made brittle and bone straight,

I await the truth of me

And my atonement for still wanting you–

For forgetting my line

And ruining us.


You are recounted to me, true:



And mortal:


were never we and


Were never tragically starcrossed, nor

Chained by the dark—

I was the dark

And by you, would never be brought to light.


You, a southern son,

Played your part;


(Your ignorant, grinning little fool)

I danced, dazzled by your splendor,

and I waited,

and I wanted,

and I—remanded to the shadows of a lesser you—

Played mine.

while you were away

i will die while you are gone.

time and again i have begged the black away, 

knowing you were too near. 

i could not bear you to see.

i knew you would call me back, and 

because i love you

i would return from something beautiful

to this perpetual wait. 

don’t fuss. there’s bread and meat for sandwiches.

and the laundry is pressed and folded.

i’ve chosen a dress for the burial, and a hat.

the girls will take care of the makeup.

skip the repast. 

i made your bed and left mine undone.

i thought you might like to lie there, a bit, and imagine

me lying in the space across from you.

sometimes, deep in the dark, i reached for you

and i could almost feel you reaching back.

the way i felt your eyes caress me

when my back was turned,

the strength of your arms

the time you hugged me.

you will wonder what to do with your time

now that i cannot tell you how to fill it.

i thought about staying.

i knew you would be angry if i chose to leave.

were my bones young and my mind lithe

and the air crisp and full

i might stay awhile.

but it is winter.

i know you don’t like to think of it.

but it is winter now and sometimes

the sun fools us into thinking winter will pass

and leave us untouched.

it will not.

you will have me here, even if i am empty

so that you are not at last alone.

so i will die while you are away.

i will wait for you, just beyond the veil.

come when you are ready.

on the anniversary of your end.

I know where you are. 

Like a hangnail 

Or enduring pain

Lodged deep beneath my skin

Or the space 

between heartbeats.

I think I have rid myself

of the pain of you

Sloughed it off 

like a winter coat

Or youthful innocence—

Which, ill-fitting, you took with you—

And then I think about 

measured time

And unfeeling dates—

The pillars standing sentinel

Over the reality of you—

And the gash between the pillars,

The place where 

the whole of you existed.

I am bound by the date

that means you ended

And I break open

And I gasp you out;

There was not enough life

In your lifetime. 

Not enough happiness

In the midst of the despair. 

And all that you were,

Twenty seven short 


Tagged and bagged

And stuffed into plastic.

I invent a new life for you

Because all ownership of stories

And the life you lived

is gone from you now,

And you are relegated the spaces 

And the downbeats

And they call you lost.

And I repeat it back to them,

But you are not lost. 

You are here, 

all the time

In the ebbing 

and the flowing

And the bittersweet sting 

of eternal grief. 

the wake

She proclaims him beautiful

Like an angel, sleeping,

A soft contented smile

Draped like plaster on his lips. 


To me he smells sick and wet,

Like dead flowers decaying in the marsh

They found him in,

The anchor wound tight around his neck,

Eyes gone,

Bowels spilled,

The world entire empty of him,

As he willed it. 


I wonder how his hurt felt. 

Did it blister like mine,

And bubble up, the pus

Seeping out and clinging to him like

Maggots feasting on his decaying parts?

Was the pain of leaving meant to

Tip the scale

So the pain of staying 

Would feel less like suffocating 

Than pulling the lever 

And excusing himself?


I wonder if there was ever a note,

Tear stained words stitched together

Saying nothing;

An oft composed letter

That he could not bear to jot down 

Because they would think him weak,

And to name his pain

Was to pass it,

And the strong carry the pain

Until they stoop and slide into the grave

Broken by its weight. 


I wonder if he measured time

By the numbered days he gave himself

To breathe the breaths he wanted,

And feel the sun he wanted,

And hear the laughter he wanted,

And perhaps they would think of this

And not his absence. 

He would give everything 

For a small one

Or none at all—

Just a place for himself.



A mind not filled with black

And longing

And eternal despair;

A space he must measure in sleeping

His only peace in dreams,

Or dreamless slumber:

For the days are overwhelmed with wanting

And there is no more room for joy—

And what if this is catching?

She proclaims him beautiful. 


Perhaps at last he is. 

all the world’s a stage

all our moments would be many, and splendid.

each would bulge into the next and time would lap at our heels

but it would not reach us.

we would best it,

always our best

and most beautiful selves.

we would be beautiful.

dreams would be made of us.

we would never stop in the gray

the place that clings like cobwebs in dark corners

places we forget to reach

we would never need consider 

our own insignificance

for we would never be insignificant.

we would be the protagonist of all stories

the life of all parties

the light of all lives.

we would want and we would have

such were the promises made.

we should be happy.

we should force our faces to smile until we thought

happy felt like an ache in the soul

besides, what could we grieve?

we had our health

or rather, we knew what health looked like.

we existed

and some fell out of the race before we even knew we were running

we were already in too deep, drowning

before we even knew we should have learned to swim.

the stories are ripped from us

and we are stunned awake to see the world

decayed and feasting on us.

all of our gods are dead

and we are forgotten

and our dreams are rancid

and our lives are measured by the small and splendid moments

precious as jewels in their scarcity.


First: the tightness of a kitchen

and the reverberation of hushed voices

and faces like drawn curtains and mouths like red slashes

across broken faces and jagged nails bitten down to the quicks

and a lone package of expired cakes and a dusty vacuum cleaner overfilled with

someone elses stuff and forgotten in a corner, and our suitcase bulging, zipper stuck on

the tattered pieces of a denim skirt, knees gone from prayers that didn’t make it in time 

and my hope that we might stay awhile, just the four of us (please be only four of us now)

and what a complete family we would make.

i cannot remember a bedroom

or even sleep–

only the return

to something like darkness

and the sweat creeping down my spine

like the claws of death

or dying

in the dark.


Then: freezing and catching your gaze

as you clutch the wall

then the carpet

then nothing at all

and you are pulled backward

away from me

your mouth agape, but without sound

our eyes locking and I, desperate but frozen

and you, unknowable. Unknown.

After: the chill of the car as we huddled

together, the only sound the sound

of your gasps as you clutched the wheel

and the plummeting in my stomach

as you turned the car around

and we again returned

and i bloodied my own tongue

and swallowed back my disappointment

in you.


Next: bitter blood beneath your chin

crushed deep into the dirt

the wish for nothingness, or else something else

and being pulled back to stand solemn

in a strangers hall while the adults marked each other

and no one saved you because you did not need to be saved

because love must begin and end

with bittersweet chastisement.


Later: the saccharine sweet of his smile made me sweat

and I hid from him and it

and wondered what it might mean

that the thought of him made me sick

and as i plucked pieces of sticks from my skin

i hated him

and i hated you. 


i asked you once if you remembered 

and you shuddered and offered me your tale

and it was unfamiliar and missing the jagged pieces

and i wondered why you needed the fiction

and perhaps i am the monster for making you remember

and for blaming you for making me believe

that one day we might tame dragons

that the laps of fire that slicks our skin

are tattooed reminders of their love

and our feigned control.


Now: again, in inherited form

passed, an heirloom, from father to son

like a broken watch that never did keep time.

and we play our roles, pretending

that we do not recognize the rage

the fury that makes the bones ache with knowing–

and you wonder what we did to make him. and unmake him.

and i wonder where we hide

that which is too painful to recollect.

and i remain silent,

standing sentinel over sorrowful remembrances;

janus faced and knowing

and never known.