I always liked the phrase “catch some rays,”
I liked the idea of sun
caught like a baseball in a mitt
on the surface of my skin
as if somehow my body leapt up from the bleachers
and caught the foul ball
and just held this sphere of sunlight
“There must have been moments even that afternoon when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault, but because of the colossal vitality of his illusion. It had gone beyond her, beyond everything. He had thrown himself into it with a creative passion, adding to it all the time, decking it out with every bright feather that drifted his way. No amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”
—F. Scott Fitzgerald
I’ve created fantasies of you
in my mind.
I’ve sculpted you in glass bottles
like sand art
adding layers of color and glitter
filled it up to the rim
and left no breathing space—
stopped you with a cork,
stuffed you in a crackerjack bag
and made you the prize.
Pitched a striped tent
around your figure
and made you the ringleader
of feathered elephants,
but I’ve fed you to the lions.
Dreamed you up of daises,
tied your stems together with blue ribbon;
but a bouquet never looks as good
as it does the moment picked.
I’ve drawn lines on the walls
of your parents’ home
above the last mark your mother made
measuring your height—
you will always fall short.
One Size Fits Most
We stood shielded by trumpet vines
with orange blossoms
facing the sunset behind the pine trees
of my childhood home—
and no scenery could be more romantic.
But you pull me in
and I pull away
and think of him
and realize I only know my love
by your love.
And he knows his lack of love
by my love.
So I draw on yours for now
and he draws on mine
and we are a chain of those
A vine of flowers and pulled petals:
he loves me,
he loves me not.
We are not shoes with a perfect match—
we are not made in pairs
We are not looking for our other halves.
We wear each other like bracelets—
one size fits most
and carry each other in the links;
a little tighter doesn’t always cut circulation,
a little looser doesn’t always slip off.
When things end sometimes your heart
doesn’t know to stop climbing
and even when your lips stop kissing it lifts up into your throat,
out your mouth and just keeps going—weightless—empty—
and you walk around like a battle-beaten soldier with a ghost limb.
You forget momentarily
and try to use your heart before remembering it’s not there anymore.
You feel pain coming from empty space.
When someone with flecks of green in his eyes
brushes your hand with his hand,
you expect it to beat faster,
but there is no beat beneath your skin.
When things end sometimes your lips don’t know
there’s no one to speak to anymore.
So you try to bite them down—beat them down,
and suck into your mouth like a suction cup.
You want to swallow them whole
because there’s no one left to listen to your I miss you’s or I’m sorry’s.
When things end sometimes your mind slips
and forgets you can’t just call and hear their voice.
You want to tell them they were wrong and stupid
and then you want to tell them
that you saw the first fireflies of the season
driving down a back road belting out Avicii beats because you had no words
but still everything felt magical
and the pancakes you made caught fire on the skillet
and you blew and blew like you had to blow out a million birthday candles
all for just one wish
and you got a new nail polish color—“New Money”—it’s bright green—
you want to tell them that you want them to see it on you
and you want to tell them to look out the window
and ask them if the sky looks just as beautiful where they are
as it does where you are
and you want to tell them you hate them
and you want to tell them you love them
and then you try to feel it
and remember your heart’s way up in space.
And you feel the emptiness
and you feel the gravity that your heart doesn’t.
It just drifts
like a lost astronaut.
So you hope the sun pulls it in—
you hope it catches fire—
that it becomes its own star.
So when you feel your ghost heart—you feel brighter.
You feel weighted—powerful enough to emit your own gravitational pull
and reel it back into you
with hook and fishing wire.
I thought with each curl
I could twist myself into someone I loved
and didn’t struggle living inside of
and I’d never break another heart
if my blush rested on my cheekbones just right.
If my teeth were white enough
the smile would be genuinely warm.
Being beautiful is like being a firework—
shoot up and burst blindingly
but you get one good run before fading away
and a day later no one remembers your shape—
just a fuzzy outline of light,
light enough to weigh nothing.
My mother always told me
to be like the night sky
and hide most of myself beneath shadows
slowly shedding light in new, tiny windows,
but never all at once.
Never be the sun.
No one can look at the sun.
But I didn’t want to be looked at anymore—
I wanted to be felt.
Sometimes I feel like I just need to say things:
like blue is my favorite color.
I prefer cloudy days over sunny days.
When I was young I mixed sprinkles with my soda
and drank from colored cups
but I didn’t even know what shots were—
and I’m half-Irish
with more freckles on my left shoulder.
I’ve always wanted to make
homemade rock candy on strings
ever since seeing Marie King’s fifth grade science fair project;
and how roses make me lonely
because it seemed like every girl
got a bouquet on Valentine’s Day in 9th grade
except for me
and how no amount of flowers would ever make up for it
and how vain and stupid and self-centered
I think I am—
except that I think all feelings are vain and stupid and self-centered.
But most of all I want to tell someone
how my one favorite thing in the world is the sun
in the winter through the dead trees
and there’s an orange glow
and you’re driving down the highway
and there’s just these blinding bursts of light
in and out
of the bones of the branches
in and out
and everything is illuminated
in quick sudden flashes—
just bathed in light
from the half-moons of my fingernails grown out past my fingertips
to the tiny spheres of light
highlighted at the ends of my hair
I want to be a balloon
so you’ll you tie my string around your wrist
as a reminder not to cut there—
(you might miss and cut me off)
or a surfer’s square-knot bracelet threaded in twine
and a wristwatch
and I’ll cover your scars
and guard your veins.
Snow Angels Cut Into My Skin
I want to flurry
and be light like snowflakes.
I want the coldness,
to pirouette in streetlight spheres—
be mistaken for windmill-shaped
glitter, like dust, seizing
caught in strands of your hair
stitches in your scarf
and melt before I touch your skin.
but water just changes
when it falls.
I want to be a million pieces at once—
a thousand cold white flecks flying and flung
and flown around by bicycle wheels
piling up silently in your heart
until you wake up
and look out the window.
I want snow angels cut into my skin.
Your Body is a Graveyard
I think something crawled up under your ribcage
and died there.
The neighbors have begun to whisper.
Your body is a graveyard.
I pull the skin into folds around your eyes (with my thumb and middle finger)
and prop your eyelids open with bobby pins.
On our walk to the supermarket
I have to chase the carrion birds away
with the weekly circular or
a copy of The Star-Ledger.
I knock on your chest and make guesses:
Is it a squirrel?
A baby raccoon?
Whatever it is—it must’ve
circled your heart three times
before laying down to die
—because the rot has spread.
Your body is a graveyard.
I lay flowers on your torso when you fall asleep.
I called my mother—
she said to wait it out
until the body decays
and let the bones rattle around your chest
or rip you open
and take the thing out myself.
In the end, I spray Febreze
around our bedroom
and hope for the best.
At 60 mph a robin crash-landed on my windshield.
First, just red breast—
a heartbeat (my own).
Then, banging diagonally downwards—
(for some reason,
I thought, the free will self-unfree
if unsure of what to do with freedom).
Through the side-view mirror
I watched its dead body pinball across the pavement
as easily and lifeless as a tennis ball,
hollow and full of air.