I only knew Charles for two weeks
at a summer camp. I was nine, and
he was ten. He asked a lot of questions.
Questions are tricky. There is such a thing
as a bad one, and the people
who say otherwise are the best proof of it.
Charles asked me
on the ninth day of camp if boys
could love boys like boys
I told Charles that he was being
gross and weird, and
that was the end of it.
I hadn’t been taught that answer.
Charles was quieter after that,
but I didn’t notice much at the time.
It’s been a while since I’d thought
about Charles, but I hope he would laugh
if he saw me now.
Eighth grade Global Civics class,
we were talking about gender.
I was in the chair in the corner.
The boys were being idiots,
and the girls were getting tired.
Adam said that boys were better,
and the rest of the boys agreed.
I was mostly quiet, but all the other
boys were talking. They thought
I was a boy, and I agreed.
I said: “it’s called human kind,
not huwoman kind.” Adam said,
“yeah! It’s called human kind,
not huwoman kind,”
and he gave me a fist bump.
I cried later that day in the bathroom,
and I wasn’t sure why.
To be honest, there are worse sensations.
I don’t know how or why this serpent found its way
into the veins of my left arm, but as it slithers up and down
my arteries, it proves adept at scratching some burning itches
on the inside of my arm that I never realized existed.
I suppose we all have these under-skin itches everywhere in our bodies,
and we just learn to ignore them as we grow,
realizing that our only method of relief is ignorance.
Maybe this is why infants cry so much:
they have not yet learned to ignore the untouchable itch.
As I write this, I can start to feel those itches come back to my attention;
maybe reading this, you are experiencing the same thing:
that tingling bug all under your body,
that odd urge to dig your hand through your flesh
and ease the loneliness and neglect of that inside layer of skin.
Maybe not, and you just think that’s a pretty fucked-up urge to have.
Unfortunately, there are also downsides to having a snake
roaming around without aim in your blood.
For one, it too needs rest, so for hours at a time it will rest in one spot,
entirely blocking whatever blood vessel it stops in,
causing whatever area of the body that blood was intended for
to become fully numb and limp. People will also give you funny looks
when they notice the large impression of a snake wriggling around
under your skin.
A spur of energy seems to have just struck the serpent, and its making its way
up my thigh and into my torso—Oh no. It looks to be headed to my heart.
I don’t know what’s going to happen, and now that I consider it,
I likely should have called an ambulance when I first noticed
this damn serpent in my veins. I can’t see it anymore, it must be near the heart.
I don’t knseefhghoicn ao’’ffiaaaaaazaaaaaaa
Driving down a side street
firetrucks and ambulances surround
a two-story house with blue shutters.
The smell of smoke rushes through
the windows and permeates the stale air
of the car’s failing air conditioner.
A couple stands, crying
hands on their heads
drawing circles on the asphalt
with their ashy paces.
I turned to my side and found no passenger beside me.
An EMT held his hand for me to stop
and let a car from the other direction pass.
As he motioned me on and I drove away,
I watched the couple slowly drown,
choked and suffocated by the blaring red lights,
regretting memories never made.
“Zofran 4 IV”
“Brevital 40 IV”
“Etomidate 20 IV”
“Succinylcholine 100 IV”
“Zofran, Brevital are in.”
“Is it alright if we place this oxygen mask over your mouth?”
“Sending etomidate now.”
“You’re gonna start feeling sleepy now, okay?”
“Don’t worry, we’ll take great care of you.”
Air swallows my lungs.
Back arches to the crosshatched,
cardboard ceiling above me.
Head wretches over my right shoulder.
Bite holes in the suffocating oxygen.
Fisted kicks and flailing ticks
as time falls to a meandering sludge.
I watch you walk away
in the reflection of the oven,
as Sufjan Stevens sings death hymns
that ricochet against my back. You return
to take out the fish, and I feel
that intentioned gust of heat
caress my face.
I look at the tile like a window.
It’s been a week and six days
since the last treatment,
and I feel it deeply.
It wraps around my arms and legs,
binding them together—it swallows
my vision, damp and dumb and dull.
The pressure is constant
and oppressive. Coddling me
like an infant, it encases my body
and sways me through the minutes.
Dinner is ready.
Three empty chairs
painted and scratched,
leaning and stale,
a fake fireplace to their right.
glows of orange and red
grow and relax in fixed intervals.
glows of orange and red
they spread and spread and spread.
Lightning is faster than thought,
I’ve learned. That bolts can erase
history as well as science-fiction.
And I don’t know whether a thing
that was only ever there for me
existed if I cannot remember it.
So it drowns me in guilt, over
the deaths of things that never
The stain is drying on the coffee table.
Fat baby fingers make first depressions,
and bigger ones grab him by the waist
to lift him away. Meanwhile, little
umber pockmarks craft bitesize scenes
of tragedy: ships swept up by rolling
waves, stranded sailors lamenting
their soon-to-be widows; oscillations
in the grain foretell the thin scratches
of quakes in the crusted earth; lightning
bolts the door of fate shut on sorry souls.
Baby is asleep now, dreaming of sailors
and quakes and lightning and godly
fingers pressing valleys in the sky.
I can feel my future leak
from my mind—not in-
to world or onto paper,
but void. Tarlogged and
sinking, it pools around
my run-rough ankles.
Rising through my thin-
ning capillaries, murky
sap drags me catatonic
and dumb into its half-
paced ocean of weight.
God, I swear—some day
ago, I wanted to live.