Tag: college

Body natural, body politic, body electric

Five hundred million years ago nature could only dream
of the kind of life that you are. Back then love existed in
dissolution. Smokestacks of ozone. Topaz trilobites squatted

in prayer. A generation of gods later, you appear. In hands,
and a voice wanton as deserts in spate. In eyes that own
all that they touch. A personal punishment for the planet

that bred original sin. My dearest killing blow, you are so
far but it’s inconsequential: I notice you imbued in
the deepest sinews of atoms. A presence as permanent

as this flesh is delicate. Did you know the full moon sweats
in terror at your beauty? To adore you is to challenge
every single eternal, universal falsehood. Every syndrome

of creation. I don’t wonder, anymore, if cloud forests long
for dust storms. I know they do, and I know you do. Please
know there is strength here that could devour the divine.

More things in heaven and earth

On the bus I read A Midsummer Night’s Dream. The day moves
like silk through the windows, in vertical sheets cast in graphite
and indigo. My mind has leapt from my body; it floats
above and around me, in gentle circular motions, like a great

white shark, aglow, bloodied. The angel of the ocean. The
Shakespearean recipe: “Love-in-idleness,” plummy and dripping,
applied to the eyelids,  and — moon as my witness — a man wakes
flooded in infatuation. How fatuous. And how delectable, how tempting,

to wield love like this: Cupid pricked by his own arrow. My mind, taking
this opportunity to be unkind, precipitates down to my ear and says:
you’re more yourself than ever, but love still riddles you like stigmata.
I sigh and reply: love, or the lack thereof, you mean?

While in line at the CVS, in matted hair and rose pink sneakers,
I think of the honeybees. They have been gone for months, bred now in
Valhalla’s scalloped terrains, but we still talk to each other as they did.
In tones, and memories, rather than honesty. Would you tell me

what you’re feeling? Not since Eve have there been eyes so evasive. There’s
a stillness to you, like a blistered chunk of flint, of basalt, a year
with no spring, the ribbed shadow between moon and tide. The
particular pain of a ghost’s homecoming, a figure tender and trembling

but exiled forever. The debt of the heart: a payment to emotion,
who in my dreams arrives as a jean-jacketed millennial
Mephistopheles. You liar, he says, from the stoop of my rental home.
He’s looking for the soul I promised him, but chose, instead, to leave with you.

Mientes mucho

My mind often returns to August of last year, to that beach in Kamakura. I remember it was mid-afternoon. I was sitting alone on the cold sand, feeling time within me like an organ of my body, like a second heart, heated, and fast. That entire day I had been alone, on autopilot, but there, by the the ocean, I found myself shifting back into a realer, more organic state, and I thought of my life, how it had developed into this foreign animal I knew to belong to me, but did not recognize, nor control, a life powered by something other than me, something more innocent and magnetic, and free.

Life possesses its own momentum, I think, a type of gravity generated by the soul. Like the survival instinct, but more human, more mundane too; less about danger and more about memory, and desire, and the muscular, spiritual pull in the body that comes with the existence of beauty, the appearance of pain. I don’t always feel it but when I do its effect is tidal, and immediate, like an electric current. I think of that instance, a few years ago, in Washington D.C.’s Ronald Reagan Memorial airport, waiting in a shuttle bus on the tarmac wet with rain, and pausing, suddenly, to think: I’m living. I’m here, and I’m alive. It was a forceful, and tender, and gently, momentarily paralyzing thought, like passing by a garden for the millionth time and noticing, for the very first time, the row of tiny flowers lining the path.

There’s a difficult, intractable, callous, evergreen part of me that my mother often calls my “nature.” I love, and require, this solidity but I wish I could change the angle of it, give it substance instead of just density. I wish I could carry resilience like a physical object. I wish I could swing it like a sledgehammer.

I think a lot about my character, how it sees, and reflects, and pursues the world. I think a lot about possibility, and emotion, and owning up to my bullshit. I think a lot about how for years I dejectedly but willingly described myself as a neurotic girl, and then a neurotic woman, just because my father called me that once. I think a lot about what it means to judge, to separate, to reject, to forgive, to value, to cherish, and how love intersects with these, individually, and in a sequence, and all at once.

Instances of peace are close to my soul. They slow time down, prolong my life for just a few more seconds, and the pretenses of calculation — how to be, and say, and act, and to what degree — which have so sustained my identity slip away, and I am not afraid, for once, of excess, or hesitation. I return to the beach at Kamakura, alone, entirely responsible for my own life. No need for excuses; no need for lies. I go through my photographs of the trip, the snapshots of white-petaled flowers with rosette cores, the plain and dignified mountainside vistas, the gray roads, their subtle, gold-toned luminosity in the summer evening. I go through images of the sea, its mirada vidriosa (“glassy stare”) and of my face, which some have called “heart-shaped,” on those impulsive, rare instances that I turned the camera around to capture my tired but smiling expression, framed by iron and blue.

Two people

In in the morning she wakes up very suddenly, the dream caught painfully in her throat. She sits up and spits it out onto her hand. It is is small, soft to the touch, growing and shrinking to the rhythm of human breath. It leaves thin lines of blood and saliva on her forefinger and thumb, and on the sleeve of her pajama shirt, where she rubs it clean. 

The curtains are drawn. Her roommate on the other side of the room is asleep, face turned towards the wall. According to her blue neon alarm clock, palpitating intermittently in the dim light: there are twenty-seven minutes before nine, and so twenty-seven minutes before she must leave the bed, wash her face, and prepare herself for the day.

Sitting in a pool of white sheets, her knees at her chest, her arms over her bare, unshaven legs; she rolls the dream between two fingers, trying to commit the weight and texture of it to memory. It is heavy as a marble, heavy as the moon. Holding it feels like summer’s end strawberries taste. She closes her hand around it; she lowers her head.

In the dream, a girl she loved (loves? She’s given up on tenses) held her hand on a school bus. Much too real; never real enough. A dream’s life is early and fatal like one of early April’s milky snowbanks, an instance of tender, pink-hued cold shot through by sweaty weather. That girl’s doe eyes, her baby blue jacket, her fragrant hair; the illusion of warmth of her fingers spreading through her body like a criminal’s car moving out of sight, getting away. The heat of the dream stains her, slick and violet, smooth as butter and sweet as honey in her blood.

An unpleasant, painful expression sweeps across her face — and then, as always, she recovers. She swings her legs off the bed. She is getting older, and her dreams are getting smaller, and smaller, and smaller. I’m not disappointed, she says out loud, to herself, to the translucent, beating dream resting in the center of her hand. I’m realistic. And yet somewhere, maybe not anywhere physical and quantifiable, but somewhere: she is leaning over to the girl in the school bus, in the sunlight, and she is kissing her temples, the apples of her cheeks, her toothy, blissful smile.

It’s difficult for her to learn not to be bitter. She is still trying.

El rayo que no cesa

Spring blooms in my stomach like infatuation, decadent, heady, and fatuous. Spring makes the tips of my fingers tremble like newborn roses. Spring dribbles down my chin in milk-warm, orange-pink stripes; it fills me up like cream soda, like honey. Soft, smooth, so sweet, overripe, dissolved in blood, sweat, in floral oils: Spring leaves stains on the front of my blouse, on my sheets, on the doorknob to my bedroom.

Spring is a season of love. Love: what does an aflame Persephone, stripping wheat for grain, cracking mussel for pearl, what does she do when breaking hearts? What does a bitter Artemis, skinning boar for meat, killing boy for pride, what does she do when breaking hearts? I am weaker and uglier than any Grecian girl but look at me, at the red on my hands, down my chest, where I have crushed and regrown, crushed and regrown my own heart, again, again — you cannot tell me I am not more bloodied than they.

March is a month of assassination in a season of love and you look like gold and almond liquor, you look like the knife, thumb pressed to the blunt edge, peeling a navel orange over a white kitchen counter. Even the evening, with its eyes and mouth of butter yellow, its touchable hipbones of violet and orange, cannot compare. I start with spring, goddesses, dream, March, lilies, birds, and now you; I find that there are many, many reasons to love. My mother and brother, their tender, green-golden voices like roses opening in the morning. Spring spreading like light through a room. A heart. My writing, the closest I’ll get to seeing my own soul, swelling, bleeding like a stuck pig, blending with the saltwater, the flowers, the perfume of your flaxen hair.

Love: I am the glutton God could not account for, and I dream of love like a wave approaches the shore. Dreams: cast in marble and moonlit blue, a nighttime poison, a nighttime blossom, enclosing the hint of fragrance in clothes, bodies, lips, that hint of fragrance that must always accompany love.

Many reasons to love but —

There is an ache in my body wide as the moon and old as angels, sweetened by spring, bared by your face, your warmth. It is called please. Please.

Spring’s sun is mute, and the oceans still and cool to the touch; but when I stand under and beside them, my fear held in my bare arms like a bouquet of trembling lilies, the wells in my heart fill with the first rains of the year and the birds of prey come down to the water, and fold their wings, and lower their heads to drink.

— you are the only reason.

The God of Kerosene

I was born in love, mired in it; in the mud of a woman’s blood. This is a letter. This is a letter, printed on the air above the Atlantic, to the only two who would remember my infant eyes.

Twist the verdict like a bottle cap, until the virtue and the venom spill, staining our necks and fingers with a pink both soft and bitter. Take your medicine. Wade out into the blue ocean between your throat and shoulder. Rest from this. No more pain.

We float on opposite ends of the still water; someone watches from the shore.

How do you explain to your mother that you still love her abuser?

The serpent used to sing to Eve. A lullaby from a kingdom of salt, where white flowers that lived through the winter grew into doves, and scarring on the body, colored sweet as cotton and sea foam, was left there only by choice.

No pain here, Eve.

God would beat the animal for this song. God would beat the animal until it was blinded, its eyes and spine broken into blossom. In the dust, it wept. But it still sang: No more

Even as her hand reached up into the branches, while He soaked the garden in kerosene: still.

pain.The angels with their swords; Eve’s hand, small as a new plum. The serpent sang: No

How do you explain to your father that he is an abuser, and you love him?

pain. The kingdom by the sea; Eve’s hand, opening.

This is an attempt.

I was born in love, buried in it; from snake to woman, from flower to ocean, from god to kerosene. Rest. Take your medicine. Forgive me. Find it in your doves and scars, in your blood and belly, to love me, still. Please,

no pain. 

Somewhere, Paradise is burning.

Big Mermaid

It’s easy to get lost in these worlds, where the waters begin and end, and the shore is a thin layer of gold, sinking where my feet are, like the mattress dipping under your weight.

If they made boats as solid as your hands, if they made oars as gentle as your hands, if they made sails as tender as your hands; I’d never leave the salt sea.

Pull apart the clouds forming above the dinner table with your fingers. These days are spread like lace, intricate, delicate; these days are made of telephone wires, with your voice at all ends.

A body, a sound, a breath, a belief. Wipe off the yellow desert spread like butter over your walls. Remember me, when you are in pain. Remember me, when you are in pain.

Not everything is made of circles, not everything has a center, not everything is provable, reducible, soluble. But your magic has made me believe I could pour the oceans into a sauce pan and boil them down into a blend of syrup, fossil, and glass.

If they had made my heart as solid as your hands, if they had made my heart as gentle as your hands, if they had made my heart as tender as your hands; you’d be drowned, and I’d.

The curtains are down, and all compasses are pointing here, to your bedroom at the top of the stairs. Your room, with its clouds and deserts, and you in the center, in a velvet-lined chair, knees pulled to your chest.

Not everything is full, not everything is whole, not everything is soluble. But my youth is still yours to use. The moons in my mouth, the seas in my sauce pans: I sold them for bus fare here, from water to land, from room to room.

Remember me, because I am in pain. You are asleep in your chair; wake, find me here. Look at how badly I have broken myself, only to see you again.

Walls, water; Rib, eyes

You are not the cooking pot in the yellow linoleum kitchen. You are not the carp, not the bowl, not the honeydew, not the tortoiseshell comb. You are not the phone pressed to the ear, not the slowly blooming rose. You are not the light, not the supermarket parking lot, not the shirt sleeves. You are not the bow, not the arrow.

You are not the exit to the maze, you are its walls. You are not the walls in this well, you are the rising water. You are buried, dug up, buried, dug up. You are not the door, not the window. You are insoluble in vinegar, in mercury, in gold.

When it is daytime in the Midwestern United States, it is nighttime in your garden. When there is time for the heel of my hand, there is no space in the silk of your arms. When there is space in your heart, there is no time in mine; when there is space for my heart, there is no time for yours. I am sitting outside, on the steps, and you are in my swimming pool. You are not the sugar, not the smoke. You are not the house, not the fire.

You are not the paradise, you are the rib. You are not the rib of this body, you are the eyes. You are shot, reborn, shot, reborn. You are not the gun, not the flower. When there is no space, and no time, for either of us, there is always the yellow linoleum kitchen, where you stand, mitts over hands, watching the steam rise from the cooking pot.


What kind of atom string, wrapped around what kind of carbon core, what kind of beating brain and nebulous heart, what kind of moral code, what kind of mantelpiece photograph, what kind of flower in the desert, what kind of desert in flower, what kind of person are you?

I’m the kind that can’t be taken anywhere, not with all the tankfuls of gas, not with all the love letters. I should have been a vegetable garden, this life, drinking in sugars from the soil; instead I am the kind that won’t call her mother back, the kind of Persephone that has to teach herself to love pomegranate. This life, I should have been a tankful, a letter, siphoned out and measured, sent somewhere; instead I am the kind that keeps her eyes open, and hides her burning hands.

You’re just a nasty person, he says, and I laugh and answer, easily, painlessly, did you just find that out now? What kind of promise, what kind of practice, what kind of purpose?

What kind of death, the kind that dries out, sweet-smelling, on the windowsill or the kind that is taken out back, and pressed into the surface of the river, what kind of morning in bed, what kind of alarm, those four bars of a love song, or your mother crying, what kind of kind, kindness, what kind of person are you?

I’m the kind that has been yelling come here. I’m the kind in warm clothes, at the side of the lake. I should have been the first, the second, the third; I should have been the third, the second, the first. This life, I should have been the kind of person that is a room: open the door, set down your bags, come here, come here. Instead I am the kind whose hands are still burning.


There’s honey in her hair, and, on the corner 0f her mouth, sea salt. She stretches like a tiger, when she wakes in the mornings. Her smile is a knife, bitter and tragic; her smile is a slab of butter, warm and fragrant, dissolving. Her hands are villains on the run; her hands are suns from the spring months. Her skin is softest at the crook of her elbow, where her blood hums, pomegranate red, and on the drum of her belly, where her stretchmarks glow, milky silver. Her heart is a cliff, iron ribbons and deposits of metals along the edges; rocks between her ribs, for each time she’s cried without comfort, flowers in her lungs, for each time she’s danced to no music. Love is the hardest work, but she does it gladly. Eyes like trees in childhood, bites of sugar; voice like song in the tundra. Sea salt along her spine and dotting her temples; a gun at her back, underneath her shirt, loaded with bullets made of honey.