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.
My skin covers my bones
and it is mine
and they are mine.
I have eyelids that I open
and I close
and I have hands that I open
and I close
and I move my body the way I want—
turning on my toes so the hem of my skirt
whisks the pavement like an eggbeater
stirring up dust
and I move the air.
If I want to cake my skin with foundation
like layers of icing
and paint my eyelids mango sorbet
it doesn’t mean I’m not a natural beauty
it doesn’t make me fake
to bleach my hair the color of the moon
and tan my skin fried coconut when I want to feel the sun—
or to paint my lips like mars through a telescope.
Maybe I just want splinters of cosmos collected
through threads of my hair.
Maybe I just want to borrow the gravity of something shining
and pull planets in towards me.
I want a space shuttle built just to discover me
because I am something unknown
and the unknown is unadvisable.
I don’t want to be called anorexic
and I don’t want to be called fat
I just want a weight that grounds me to the earth
so that I can look up and see the stars
and I want a weight light enough to be lifted
to look down and see my origins.
I want perspective—my own.
These knees, these skinny legs, these shoulder blades are mine.
I don’t need a McDouble and I don’t need a diet.
Do you move the muscles in my thighs?
Do you feel with the nerve endings in my fingertips?
Do you crane my neck and open my eyelids and see the stars?
Why is a slut the worst thing a girl can be
What makes you more virtuous for shaming a girl
for kissing too many boys?
Where is your closet full of turtlenecks?
Do you not open and close your hands—
or are they someone else’s to tell you what you can and cannot do with them?
If I want to parade around in nothing
but my Angels by Victoria’s Secret Push-Up bra, then why shouldn’t I?
I paid $60 for it anyway.
Humans share 1/3 of their DNA with daffodils.
So who is to tell me that I cannot curl
beneath the comforter 2 to 4 weeks
before the ground freezes—
wait out the winter,
then unfurl my fingers from fists like filaments
bursting from my bulb and be the first flower
in spring to signal the morning?
And you will wake to me
glittering between the blinds.
And strips of my light will divide your face
as you walk to the window.
And children will wake up to watch me rise.
Who is to say we are not an army of stems
and petals and color?
Who is to say we cannot grow and die
and grow again and rise from the soils
just because we have dirtied them ourselves?
They will look at us—
yellow-white stars in the daylight
—and they will wish on our burning hearts.
To all the psychologists out there with a PhD in Facebook
who think a seventh grader has complete control over her decisions
and her rationale—
as if a 15 year-old-girl possesses the developed brain
of an adult without the information.
To all self-righteous Virgin Mary’s who have the right
to throw the first stone,
and then take the opportunity—
as if a woman—
as if a girl—
who makes a mistake deserves to die.
And it doesn’t matter if she’s still a coco-puff eating—
Diary of a Wimpy Kid-watching—
not yet in pre-algebra—
a book title with “Princess” on the summer reading list—
but she must be old enough to avoid manipulation.
And I’m sure that none of you really care that six million Jews
died in the Holocaust,
but you’ll read Anne Frank and cry for her.
And nobody asks why all the attention is on her—
and nobody picks up a survivor’s biography
and says she’s not the only one who died—
because they are the faces.
They are the recorders of the tragic.
Because attention to one gets attention to the whole—
they are the representation of an act that must not be repeated
and if you are against bullying
then shout hallelujah for the publicity,
hallelujah for a parent who cares,
hallelujah even if she was a green-skinned alien
only broadcasted for her color.
Hallelujah for bullying awareness—
regardless of the means.
Because humanity needs a face to connect to humanity—not a number.
Because if you read 3,000 people commit suicide per day
you don’t shed 3,000 tears—
you scroll through your newsfeed on your iPhone 5
walking downstairs to make yourself a sandwich
asking, “who used the last of the spicy mustard
without throwing the container away?”
I Think it’s Great that You’re a Virgin
In high school I had a guy tell me he valued me
because my virginity was intact
—in an epidemic of adolescent promiscuity.
Throngs of G-string wielding 13, 14, 15 year old girls
were indiscriminately letting any old gold-sticker capped
white boy wannabe faux ghetto scumbag wangsters
pop their slutty skank cherries.
“And honestly, it’s just so damn hard to find a respectable girl nowadays.
It’s just so damn rare to find a good girl.”
He almost had me believing these girls wantonly took up pins
to pop their own virginities,
as if he, himself made no contribution
to this sweeping plague that’s affected today’s female youths—
and maybe he hadn’t but at this point I didn’t care.
If I am pretty, I want to be pretty alone, not prettier than.
If I am smart, I want to be smart alone, not smarter than.
If I am a virgin, I want to be a virgin alone.
If I am a burst of lightning lighting
streaks of white across your dark—
a nightlight glow-in-the-dark star on your ceiling—
light-up red and blue soled sneakers against a backdrop of the Fourth of July,
then call me light, but not lighter than.
I don’t need an opinion.
I will value my own virginity and appraise its worth
Whatever value I assign it has nothing to do with you
or your easy ex-girlfriend who slept with you on the first date
—and her virginity’s worth has nothing to do with you
or her next boyfriend.
What are you? A jeweler? Who is diamond? Who is emerald? Who is topaz? Who is sapphire? Opal? Amethyst? Quartz? Cubic Zirconia? Rock candy? Who are you?
Who are you?
As if it’s civil to compliment a woman
by disrespecting women—
you probably think that makes you a good guy—
because you called me an angel and her a whore.
And, girl—if you are flattered, then who are you,
You’re just a comparison.