She crawls muddy
up the banks.
Singing don’t call me
if nothing is granted, then nothing is given, & I
am sick & dying on the bathroom floor
a thousand times over, dangling my arms like
old sticks, like phantom limbs over the edge of
When I am broken and bloody, whose hand
do you hold? Because it isn’t mine. I know I am only beautiful
when I smile; pain is so obviously unattractive.
So you want to go to heaven? You’ll have to be clean.
No one wants a dirty little toy soldier, wringing her hands like she’s already dead.
Try to show your teeth for once.
You keep your mouth clasped around the blood.
Soft hum of the air conditioner late into
the night. It’s hot outside, but the cold collects in pockets
when the doors are closed. I couldn’t tell you the first time
I wished I was dead but I know the last thing you said to me
Slowly rises the blood up my throat.
I so desperately want to ask you what you think of this thing called life,
and why it always feels
like I’m choking on thick red when you’re not
where I can see you—
If I didn’t have to breathe, I would sit at the bottom of the ocean
until the cold killed me or
I grew so old I looked like a new person who could meet you
and love you—
This old skin isn’t glass. This little death that I drink once a week
has my fifteenth soul in it,
reborn each year like a phoenix, but you probably wouldn’t like that metaphor;
it’s so overused these days. Too common.
The inconvenience is that God
left his sweater in my bedroom after he cheated. I really thought
he was giving it to me but he wants it back. I let him convince me I was
special for having you— for
shielding you from the rain with my
bare hands, bending myself around you like a slinky
down a flight of stairs—
The song is over: I’m dead.
I won’t have the heart to haunt you. If anything,
I’ll fold your clothes and put the dishes in the sink
when you forget them upstairs. I’ll
correct the spelling on your essays while you sleep
and pet your dog if he gets scared at night
when you shut him out of your bedroom.
I’ll be the best help you ever had, silent and unseen,
just how you want me. I’ll be dead; that’s the end of the poem.
dead, it’s buried. Sometimes when things are underground they breathe anyway, or
they were never alive at all. Take
someone like your mother for example. Her hands are dirt-soaked
and wretched yet
her lungs expand outward, cancerous, eating up her air
like tiny hurricanes.