Advice To My Younger Selves

Dear 19,

I know you feel like you’re coming apart at the seams,

shadowed eyes and bloody fingernails,

sleepless nights and bruises and whiskey,

and they all want to pretend they don’t see what he’s doing.

But help will come from unexpected places,

so when you hear sirens, I promise,  it’s the beginning of the end.

Don’t let go. Keep fighting, every single day;

put that blade away in a drawer,

and I promise, you will make it through.

Dear 20,

I know he seems kind, after all you’ve been through,

but he has secrets of his own

so I advise you to go looking for his skeletons

and don’t wait for them to arrive on your doorstep.

Listen to his words but pay more attention to his actions,

and you’ll discover who he becomes when no one is looking.

PS – If you’re wondering, he is. Trust me.

Dear 21,

He doesn’t love you, (no, he doesn’t)

and I know that won’t stop you from trying,

but when he promises forever,

protect your heart a little better.

Don’t let him leave you sitting alone and silent,

and yell at him, this time, before he slams the front door.

Straighten your spine and know that you will be smarter, next time,

With whose hands you lay your heart in.

Dear 22,

Of all the things you will feel in this life,

This one is the hardest, I swear.

Breathe. Cry. Breathe.

Feel all the things you need to feel.

Don’t fight it, let it out; yell whenever you need to.

Trust me, you’ll need to.

It gets easier every day. I promise.

Dear 23,

When you’re feeling apprehensive about that date,

it’s for a reason — don’t go.

You’ll make decisions you shouldn’t have,

have conversations you’ll wish you hadn’t,

and you will be in tears by the end.

Give yourself a little more time to heal,

Being in love is not a tax you pay to exist.

Dear 24,

It’s going to be a tough year for you,

But you’ll survive it just fine.

Take your control back.

Be self-assured even when you don’t feel that way.

Fight for the things you’ve earned; make people hear you,

and if you don’t get what’s yours,

make sure you go down swinging.

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midnight train

your love

and my love

ride different trains

Your love pulls me in,

invites me to your problems,

includes me in your fears,

drags me into fights.

My love protects you from harm,

covers your ears at loud noises,

stands before you when bombs detonate,

throws up shields when words attack.

Your love buries its hooks into my skin,

tugs at my hair,

burrows into my chest,

bites at my lips.

My love is committed,

building you a fire,

wrapping you in blankets,

saving you from drowning.

Your love is involved,

clawing for favors,

pulling skeletons from closets,

dragging me to the bottom of the ocean.

My love is

protection

warmth

future

Your love is

fear

desperation

now

your love

and my love

ride different trains

can’t

get

off

this

ride

I Didn’t Want To

I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
I dragged the words up
from the pit in my stomach,
fighting them, pushing them away from me.
The first time I said it, the story collided
with the horror, the empathy,
the well-intentioned pity
on the face of a friend.
You have to tell it again, she said,
you
have
to
make
him
pay.
So I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
I stared at perfect creases
in dark blue uniforms
and vomited the words again and again.
Bright white flashes in a cold room,
photos of the ink-like stains on my skin.
Cold metal under my fingernails,
dry cotton inside my cheek,
sterile fingers pulling at my hair,
taking more pieces of me.
You have to tell it again, they said,
you
have
to
be
strong
now.

 

So I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
A suit and tie I’d never met
asked for details no one would remember
but I tried, I tried, I tried.
I watched his furious scribbling
and, knowing the stakes, recalled
every single hurt that I could.
My hands suffered from aftershocks
so I hid them, clenched in my lap,
burying my shame and weakness.
You have to tell it again, the suit said,
you
have
to
prove
it
happened.
So I said the words.
I didn’t want to.
Everyone rose for a man in black robes
and we began their war of credibility.
He’s there, right there, at the corners of my vision
and suddenly my skin is made of glass,
ready to shatter if anyone presses too hard —
they’re all pressing too hard — this is all too hard —
I just want to go home.
Their questions imply things of me,
Asked-for-it / deserved-it / wanted-it / liked-it.
I feel their words pouring over me,
try not to breathe them in,
hope that I can reach the shore before I drown.
I tread water for hours, days, a week,
Before a dozen strangers come back.
You have to say it again, said the man in robes.

Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
Guilty
“GUILTY.”

They said a word.
They heard all of my words
and gave me back just one,
and that word was supposed to give me more,
give back the pieces of myself that I lost.
But my stomach feels empty without that pit in it.
What now?
The chains tethering me to that moment
have finally been unlocked;
I don’t have to tell it again.
There’s no one left to make me say the words.
So I wonder:
was
saying
the
words
worth
it?

…..let me

Let me complicate you.

Let me breathe smoke into your lips,
and feel it as your tongue touches poison.
Let me snap the padlock of your standards,
cross the line, invade you, change the way you see.
Let me draw a blade along your spine,
watch the bloody dewdrops march along behind.
Let me ruin sex for you, forever,
because you can’t let go unless you might die from it.
Let my eyes whisper sins,
and awaken the dragon who sleeps inside you.
Let my hands paint a story,
overlapping circles of black and blue.
Let me take an axe to your ethics
and revel in the purity of destruction.
Let me light a match and touch it to your skin,
see you feel the sting and the surprise.
Let me feel it when your boundaries bend,
when you touch, even knowing you shouldn’t.
Let me take you to forbidden places,
where backs arch but you have to stay quiet.
Let me watch as you realize
there are bells you can’t unring.

Let me complicate you.

 

 

Brace For Impact

They are flying.

Forty feet between their shoes and the ground.

They feel so free.

How funny, then, that all that stops their freefall is a cage.

Metal grates that are painted black but never quiet.

Footsteps vibrate the length of the paths.

Unless, like they have, you’ve learned to step softly.

He stands behind her, has her bent over the railing.

Their silhouettes merge and separate and merge again.

A sound escapes her and his hand covers her mouth.

Their shapes move faster.

The metal grates shift beneath them. Neither cares.

Faster.

They can hear others, down below. It adds to the high.

Faster.

She cries out against his fingers.

He slides his hands to her throat, gripping, still moving against her.

Her hands curl around the rail.

He gives a quick shout, releases her.

The two shadows separate for a moment as they dress.

He steps forward, whispers something against her ear.

Then he shoves her as hard as he can.

He watches her tumble over the rail.

Forty feet, he thinks.

Brace for impact.

“that book which is my memory”

She wonders, now, if she knew all along.
Maybe she watched him dress in his lies
the same way he slid into his torn-up jeans,
equally comfortable in denim and deception.

She wonders if seeing him build things
made him look stronger, or more vulnerable.
Bricks upon bricks of carefully crafted words,
built into a wall, stamped with a love story.

She read that story on repeat, the poor fool.
Drank up every drop of smudged ink,
savored the subtle notes of doubt on her tongue,
felt the thrill of wandering so far from her path.

He poured her drinks so well,
tailored them just to her taste,
strong and harsh but never bitter,
foreshadowing at the bottom of every glass.

He sang the songs just right,
chose words she’d never admit wanting to hear,
pressing but never pushing,
stopping just short of too much.

He wrote things so beautifully,
black drops from the metal tip,
delicate flourishes across the page,
too wild to be bothered with their meaning.

On life he quoted from Hamlet,
on love he borrowed from Dante.
She wonders if that was when she really saw him,
her poet’s heart hearing truth in his choices.

For within romantic serenades,
she heard whispers of the phrases unsaid.
Bear our hearts in grief,
how apt, she thinks — a divine comedy indeed.

he promised.

It’s midnight.
I check the locks.
I turn off the lights.
I climb into bed.

I start the feel it, the loss of control.
I go to war the the anxiety; I use logic.
Everything is fine, you’re safe.
But he’s coming; he promised.

It’s 1 am.
I wake in a panic, a small noise somewhere.
That sound isn’t him, he doesn’t know how to find me anymore.
I get up and check the locks again.

I start to cry, can’t stop.
I whisper out loud to myself.
It was years ago; wipe your tears.
But he’s coming; he promised.

It’s 2 am.
I stare at the curtains, watch for every shifting shadow.
I jump at all the noises and lights.
I get up and check the locks again.

I give up and get out of bed.
I sit on the couch in the dark.
I listen for a knock, but there’s no sound.
But he’s coming; he promised.

It’s 3 am.
He’s still there in my head.
He is coming; he will find me. He promised.
I get up and check the locks again.

“You think you can ever escape? When you’re finally happy, when you think you’re free, I will hunt you down. I’ll find you wherever you are. I will destroy you. I promise you that.”

He promised.

the house that J built

I arrive at a farm house.
I recognize it, the way you do in dreams;
the house is yours now.
Familiar. Safe. Sunny.

(Really it’s the Westport house.
The twisted memories,
the realities of that house,
the dark cloud surrounding it,
aren’t present in this version.
Dreams are like that.)

I get out of the car with an overnight bag.
Sling it over my shoulder and greet you,
like we’ve done this a thousand times
and nothing about this is unusual.

(Really I never would have brought a bag,
in case someone showed up there
and I had to pretend
that we were just friends.
My belongings would have stayed in my car.
Hidden. Like us.)

You kiss me – quick, like nothing.
Like we’ll do it a million more times in our lives
and it’s so comfortable and natural
that it makes my chest hurt.

(Somewhere in my mind
I know that this is a dream
from which I will inevitably wake.
That this is one of the only moments I get to see you.
I know that this moment is precious and rare.
More rare with each year that passes.)

Each time I dream of you I wonder whether
it will be the last time I see you.
I know that the final dream is coming
and it makes me hopeful, and impossibly sad.

the price of pretending to be someone else

You wanted a quiet engagement
relaxing on the beach with a bottle of wine
gentle breezes and loving words
–but she wanted to shout it from the rooftops.

You hated how grandiose it was,
hand-holding and kissing
with her foot in the air,
how fake and how obvious the photos were
–but she wanted the photo shoot done.

I saw you in the engagement photos
looking uncomfortable
you didn’t seem to know where to stand or look
like no one taught you where to put your hands
and I hated her for it.

You hated yuppy clothes
because they made you feel uptight,
but she dressed you in argyle
clean slacks and shiny shoes
clean-shaven, not a hair out of place.

You wanted to wear shop clothes
torn up jeans splattered with paint
shirts with holes and ripped sleeves
hacked-up collars and smelling of sawdust
–but she didn’t like you that way.

I saw the ceremony photos
of you in a three-piece suit
and I barely recognized you
and I hated her for it.

You hated churches,
you called them stuffy and solemn
hated the incense and sing-song prayers
–but she chose the one you got married in
and you smiled at the altar anyway.

You wanted to get married in a barn
like a music video with acoustic guitar
dancing in warm light from exposed bulbs
because it reminded you of theatre lights
— but she wanted a country club.

I saw the wedding photos
of white walls and big glass windows
bright lights and expensive flowers
and I hated her for it.

I wonder if you told her
you hated that church
when she chose it for you both
for better or worse

queue

They’re at the door again,
waiting
in
a
line.

All the ones who caused damage.
They carry their particular cruelties
and wait for their turn.
There is no sound.

He’s first.
With his sweetness.
The one you had to break.
He carries the heartbreak you taught him.
He’d never felt it before you.
He brings you guilt.

He follows.
With his rage.
The one who broke your body.
He carries your blood, skin, tears, scars.
He loved to push your limits.
He brings you destruction.

He comes after.
With his carefree life.
The one who brought you to your knees.
He carries handcuffs, a ring, and your tattoo.
He loved to keep it casual.
He brings you false promises.

He’s last.
With his mystery.
The one who broke your heart.
He carries your tempestuous love.
He loved to keep you guessing.
He brings you sadness.

They all move past,
silent.
What you carry is so heavy.
Their gifts are yours to keep.