When you are raped

When you are raped, you will think thoughts like “I do not
remember what the sun looked like today.” You will not
remember what the sun looked like that day, but you will,
years later, find yourself wondering what the sun looked like
on the day that you were raped.

When his nails are sunk through your skin, and his hammer
through your flesh, you will think “my life is no longer mine.”
You will believe this for a long time, and even when you will
say that you have moved beyond that belief, you will still,
secretly, think it sometimes.

When you see his face contort itself to display a perfect
reflection of who you were, you will realize that you can
also feel your own face contort into a perfect reflection
of who he was. Do not worry—this is normal. His face
will show yours until he rapes another.

(Although, every time afterwards in which you look in
a mirror, you will see what used to be his face—it is
vitally important that you understand that you have not
become him. This is very important, and you must do
everything in your power to not forget.)

(You will forget this, though, and so when you feel
that burning hatred for yourself—you will feel a
burning hatred for yourself—at least remember that
it is not actually yourself that you hate, it is only the
imprint of him on yourself that you hate.)

When you are raped, you will be very, very afraid, and
you will feel confused and you will feel lonely and you
will feel dread and you will feel pain and you will feel
so many things, but you will feel like you feel nothing
because you have no words to describe a terror so pure.

(Neither do I)

After you are raped, when you are alone, you will
want nothing more than to feel the soft and warm
of an other person, and when you are surrounded
by others, you will want nothing more than to be
as alone as you were when you were raped.

When you are raped, it will already be over, even
though it never actually ends. When you are raped,
it will be so quiet. When you are raped, you will both
cry and not cry, sometimes at the same time. But mostly,
when you are raped, you will just feel so, so raped.

The Death of Leaves

I saw myself watching the yellow-red leaves
when they fell from the trees. It was so beautiful
with the neony sun-glow passing through its
membranes as it flickered and fell through the
windy licks of the air’s idling turbulence.

Then I became a leaf, and I saw genocide.
It was frantic and murder in the chilling air
and I saw a fleshy monster grinning an awful
terrible grin and I felt a hate of such unbound
potency that I was stripped away myself.

I blinked back into my own head as my body
hit the ground. I had wanted this—I had
anticipated it with eagerness and thick saliva
breeding behind my teeth. I wanted
so desperately to go home.

Neptune

I always hated the water. When I was young, I would run along the beach, stepping as close as I could to the breaking waves without letting them catch my toes. Something about the fear, I found enticing, exciting. When the sea-foam got so close, it almost felt like a hand would reach out and grab you. Snatch you into the blue, letting the rip currents do the rest.

When I was ten years old, we moved away from the sea, inland, where the waves would never touch me, nor I the waves. We lived in a rural area, mostly farmland, aside from the small town over the railroads, where the schoolhouse was. I would walk to school (it was only twenty minutes or so, and I enjoyed the privacy). I enjoyed running my fingers along the edges of the corn fields, letting the stalks brush by, shaking off the dust that had settled on them. Each year, when the harvest came, the plants would all seem so naked, and I too felt exposed. It was as if, without the walls of crop, my thoughts were open for anyone to see.

The nakedness would leave me feeling restless and despondent, and, in those days, I would wait by the train tracks after school until a train came, and I would run alongside it as fast as I could, trying to pull ahead. Unlike the waves though, the trains always won, and it would leave me feeling still restless, but now too tired to do anything about that restlessness.

By the time I was twelve, I had made a few close friends, who joined me by the tracks when the season came. Some days, we would just sit and let the wind of the trains buffet against us like it did the bare fields. Other days though, the eerie hum of the galloping train over the tracks inspired in us some mischief. We would conspire against one of our friends to all jump across the tracks at the last moment, leaving the other alone on the other side of the train. On the days when it was my turn to be left, I would be reminded of the waves, stealing the shells that would wash up, leaving me dancing around its skirted edges.

One day, like so many others, we poked along the rails in the mid-November chill. We were going to trick the little brother of one of my friends, who had come with us that day. Hearing the familiar hum of the tracks, we looked at one another, making sure we were all ready. Then, when we sensed the train coming near, we darted across to the other side.

The train was passing now, and we laughed, thinking how confused he must be, on the other side. After the few minutes it took for the train to pass, we stood looking at a vacant field. His older brother, suddenly worried, shouted his name to no response. Instructing us to split up and search for him, I headed further down the tracks. It wasn’t long before I found his size-two, mangled, left sneaker. Looking up from the shoe, silent, I saw that fated pile of cloth and body, torn and strangled, two-hundred feet further down the tracks.

He did not know the rails like we did, and he had tried to follow us. Stepping across, his foot caught in the old, splintered wood, and he fell. By the time we had turned around, the train was passing, and he was passed. The train had carried him several hundred feet down the tracks, before spitting him out.

That was ten years ago. Now, I’m sitting in the sand, by my old home. The water runs through my toes.

Skeleton Key

I found a skeleton key underneath some papers
in an attic-dusted trunk. The papers were yellowed
and creased, and the key held the image of a dove in
its bow. I thought of a magician, draped in a long
coat, producing doves at the fingertips. I breathed
a breathy laugh at the thought, that this peace symbol
is so easily manipulated; then looking back into
his eyes, I saw a knowing sadness and realized
with a weight that this was no coincidence at all.

Driftwood

I saw driftwood wash on the beach.
Sitting for twenty minutes, I thought
deeply, trying to figure its significance.
And twenty minutes went by, and all
I could see was this wooden wood.

It was dripping with water, which
looked like water. I began to feel
very sad, for surely everything must
mean something to someone, but
this wood just looked like wet wood.

Thirty minutes had passed now,
with this rumbly anxiousness in my
wooden skull, when the waves swept
in and stole this wood from me. Now
I felt very angry, sat in it all. I wanted

to throw a stone at the water, out of
spite, I wanted to yell at the mean water,
who stole my driftwood like my heart.
Then, I sat for minutes more, thinking
instead of myself, who had just claimed

this dirty wood log as my own body.
But this driftwood was not my heart,
nor was my heart made of driftwood.
My heart is soft and pink and fleshy
and full of blood, like the ocean.

Milk and Honey

Bleeding and aching,
coiled in bed,
you counted my freckles
like tiles on the ceiling.
Lit wicks of a candle
dripping hot wax
into your fresh, open hands.
I followed my jealousy
to the door of your closet
and sheltered myself from the rain.
Take love with sugar, or
Take love with salt.
If there’s anything to learn,
love’s not your fault.

Like Silence

I held your shoulder while you were asleep.
I swear a voice from behind me
spoke lucid and real “remember to hold her,
to joy with her laugh,
to speak lullabies to her tears.
This life is not yours to keep.”
So now I mold my body around yours,
to never forget the shape.
I keep journals to record the melodies of your dreaming breaths:
the last entry says your heat was like
a river, your heart like a rhythm, your
twitching nose like the final
beat of a hummingbird’s wings before
it lays in its nest.
Your eyes fluttered open like the sun.
My fears lifted with your hand,
like silence.

I Feel Splotchy

I feel splotchy.
Like one-hundred different puzzle pieces
from one-hundred different puzzles,
open ends stretching for another.
We fit together okay,
but our picture is a messy one.

My arm is a branch
with birds for leaves.
My bathroom-tile skin
littered with graffiti,
chafes against
my lighthouse leg
in a Kintsugi shoe.

At night, when I sleep or pretend,
little bugs gnaw on me
and spin their memory thread
through the notches of my railroad spine,
between my scissor fingers
and pipe-cleaner toes.

We get along.

Honolulu Queen

I was given flowers
after the death of her.
They stumped on the desk
drinking each day. By
day three, their love-purple
tint was dwindled, and the
littler leaves drooped softly.

Hunched over, much like she,
in the weeks before her death.
Slumped in her bed, that
un-godly bump on her head,
she grew pale. And sad.

Those little leaves now
are brown. The colors
all white-washed, freckles
of mold dot the creases of
her pedals. Hungover eyelids,
catheter stem from her abdomen
trails blood like blood.

Was it a motivation to
let me watch her die again?
To see her clammy face in
the coiled roses, sad and mute?
What dumb compensation.