Turn your face to the dirt
and cut your vowels short,
bite down on every accent.
Wrap yourself in black,
make yourself an afterthought
a shadow, a wisp of displaced
atmosphere. Your name is going to be
the death of you,
your face is a portrait of falling.
Dye your skin a colder color
and douse your eyes in bleach.
We’ll stuff your mouth with
cigarettes and crooked phonemes,
but birthmarks always speak louder
than your broken intonations.
You, with the orange lip-
have you considered
a renaissance, an apostasy,
effacement of all trace
of your garish birth?
Let us help you, let us inject
your veins with fever and poison,
scald the shriveled viscera
burn your sin from inside-out.
Here we preach
the gospel of abandon
and the chanticleer’s poised
to cry- it’s time you denied
your photographs, your blood,
the black incision
carved above your heart.
Swear on a bible, the ocean,
the grave you dug,
tell us you don’t pray for wings
or thalassic tesserae.
Don’t waste your cherished time
dressing wounds in our shroud;
you’ll never learn
to stop bleeding through.
will always be
the infallible, love-worn
to every other
I have been leaving you out of our story.
Perhaps I thought you forfeited your claim to grief
with the soporific deathwish,
waking somnolence of your grave-still body
alive and looking at her anguish
dark curls stuck around her face as white as buried bones
breathing slowly and wishing you weren't.
Lock the door when you leave and don't you dare look back.
You have no right to pummel the concrete
until your knuckles shred, or let your screams
echo through the gouged bedroom walls
or weep when you place your grown-up hand
on the hollow cast of tiny stars.
Do not speak to me of loss
when it's you who dragged
your rancorous soul
through the dirt and down the road.
You need to give him credit, she'd say
and I stared down at her shoes
with ziptie laces and holes in the toe.
Felt the immortal bitter swarm
sting my heart
gorged on poison and memory
Darling, it's me.
Wake up; it's nearly noon and we set you a place at the table.
On the cusp of sixteen, I stopped asking
where you went
why there is (no
between the faceless walls
what happens after
the dear and mighty
fall without trace.
Fear's shadow slept over
our bodies. Illusory reconcile
cast a strange and sinister light
a discord between
the man who slipped away
and the one standing
like a lighthouse beside my hospital bed.
I have not made this easy for you.
You who touched my nascent brow
before sunlight's exaltation,
who fathered two children and claims four
as his own, the sturdy wire
between fixtures in our constellation;
perhaps she is right,
and I will learn to write the chapters
thrown into the fireplace, edges burned
poignant viscera still legible beneath
ten years of dust and ashes.
There is more to this story than handprints
on cheekbones, iv drips stabbing our crooked veins,
dark fringe over her eyes like a shroud,
gaunt hours under clinical florescence.
Dear one, what is it you've done to yourself?
There is also this:
a homemade treehouse and firecrackers, tiaras and satin shoes.
Face paint and mardi gras beads and my dress-up clothes,
flowers blooming in your lapel and in my hair.
We're royals now, looking proud over the peeling balcony.
I am tall as the grass under our second-story feet
my hand enfolded in your palm like a prayer.
When you're a kid again, will you come
with me on the swingset?
When I'm your size will we be too big
to remember how the story goes?
We hear her from the kitchen,
back door thrown open to mid-July swelter.
It's half-past noon.
Stop dawdling around the yard and come inside.
and i want to feel useful
and i want to feel used,
crash hard into your skinmusclesbones,
count my bruises like blessings,
and taste the wicked sting of nicotine on your mouth.
kiss away the question of whowhatwhy
and swallow down the cure
before the twitch of the second hand
turns chariots and splendor into pumpkins and rags,
illusory glamour’s fading embers,
heavy drags on my last cigarette
that burned out between my teeth.
all i’m asking is to dance
next to the cloak of flesh shriveling
in the starlight, to burn away
the idle cells that have never felt
nothing so acutely,
to abscond for an hour
into an erethism of scarlet mouths
and bodies born to sin.
and the analeptic’s wearing off
like we knew it would
and the second hand isn’t waiting
for anyone. philosophies foregone
in the name of bloodstains and revelry
slink back into view.
bar signs and billboards
like neon acolytes
on the sad crawl home,
this night wrapped in cellophane
and thrown into the river half-alive.
On the cusp of your beloved threshold I saw you, your sturdy ankles and tremulous steps into the derelict edifice, cobwebbed balustrade gleaming like ebony water under your bone-white hand,
carpet of dust and crumpled photographs like your own sacred altar.
I saw you kneeling, and your hands amassed the grave irretrievable.
I watched you cradle your forlorn vignettes; a pillowcase with crude seams and thimblepricks of blood, an old sneaker with no laces, pastel candlesticks burned to wicker stubs.
I followed your tread towards the broken mantle of our stony youth, where someone has burned shriveled letters, our voices risen in a grey plume of ash.
I heard you speak to the kind-faced phantoms seated at your kitchen table. Their gentle answers like smoke while you nod and understand, now and forever, that the arthritic floorboards and spiderlace walls are forsaken aches with no absolution.
The ghosts and I watched sadly as you gathered strips of wallpaper and upholstery like a child picking wildflowers, tearing iridescent growth from Terra’s groaning breast.
“None of us are going back.” You tell me this over and again while we gather our dead and leave our fingerprints on every window of this brick and mortar mausoleum.
I hear you singing hymns and christmas carols, and then the stark echo, the house key’s last turn, hear your holy words as you carve our names into the ceiling and drop breadcrumbs down the hall.
ensconced in the mud and flesh
of her lake’s black nethermost,
Ophelia studies the bright geometry
of doves and telescopes,
the tenuous shape
of gods and swine,
Andromeda fashioned out of stars.