I’ll look to the south

You are 
your favorite authors 
your beloved
literary characters.

I dive to understand
your mind 
and come up
breathless and more confused.

I seek refuge among
the clues you’ve given me
in memories a decade old.

I review the
drunken truths you let
slip that evening. 

I only get you
when your guard is down, 
broken in with substances
meant to numb you.

I just hope I find you
before you meet the same fate
as the characters you look to
to fill your lonely heart. 

pour me out

I lose 10 pounds
cup size B sprouts.
My butt is flat compared to Rachael’s.
 
“You like Alec, don’t you?”
 
I soon learn
to confuse kindness
with flirting
and flirting
with withholding.
 
“You’re a tease.”
 
I’m 13.
I do not understand what
teasing means.
I was taught to smile
and be nice
when I don’t want to be.
 
The equation
no longer added up.
 
Hours drained on empty boys.
Touches and grabs and expectations.
I plucked and I shaved and waxed
I burned the skin on my upper lip.
 
To what purpose
to interest boys who used me
to fill their own bodies and minds.
They drained me as I topped them off.
 
I was
caught tangled
with men between my legs
filling me with
shame,
dichotomy of the feminine
the conservative.
 
My body
both me
and not me.
 
My breasts grew from birth control
boys looked at me 
as curves became their canvas
to judge.
 
At 12 blood ran
from my underwear
The aches from my empty womb
 
“You hooked up with Christian?”
 
I am 12.
I do not understand what
hooking up means.
 
The male gaze
framed me as lovely
until
my voice exposed
what was inside.
 
I remember
becoming more than a body.
 
“You care more about your career
than our future.”
 
At 26 I felt poured out
until I was dry
I had to replenish myself
I’ve learned to love my own taste.
 
I recognize the power of
kindness
intentional use of charm
of beauty
I have a choice in the version
I show of me.
 
At 27 my blood
holy water – filling
Life.

damaged lenses

Tonight street lights are the only stars.
A few burnt out and I do not see
the black ice on the sidewalk.
 
I fall
hit my head.
Shattered something in my eyes.
Grey turns into bursts
of red and blue
and all the things
that don’t make sense.
 
I ask two strangers,
 
“What does it look like?”
 
They tell me love is
orange and yellow normalcy.

I crawl to my car
reach for my glasses
in the glove compartment.
The colors fade and I’m seeing
for the first time
in 13 years.
 
Out loud I ask,
 
“What have you done?”
 
Sadness comes to me
petite and vulnerable
yearning to be seen.
 
She looks at me,
shakes her head.
The view shifts and I’m there.
I’m 13 and I’m falling.
I’m 14 and I’m calling his dad.
 
“Your son, he took pills.”
 
“What happened? Why did he do this?”
 
“I told him I didn’t love him anymore.”
 
I’m alone on my bedroom floor.
My mom listens outside my closed door.
She hears a flat tone in my voice
dissociated from the words I say.
 
“He did this because of me.”
 
My voice sounds older.
Older than 14.
Thick with pain and knowing.
 
I watch myself from the window sill.
I see the exact moment there’s a shift
in the eyes of a teenager.
 
It is then
I begin to believe I am responsible
for the feelings of others.
 
That love is torturous and painful
secretive and life-threatening
all-consuming.
 
It is this moment I believe
I am the victim
and love the betrayer.
 
The numbness of 14 consumes me.
The same feeling
that helped me dial the number
to tell his dad his son called
to say goodbye.
 
His dad is remarkably calm.
When I say these words
and that I was the reason for them.
 
A car beeps.
I startle and see a crack
in the glasses
that have sat in their case
for 13 years.
 
The frames are bent,
the lenses scratched and cloudy.
I remove them from my face,
fold them delicately in my lap.
 
I wait to feel.
Nothing comes.
 

Gaslight

Expectations harbor 
in an impossibly difficult box
no instructions
to navigate the
locks and hidden compartments.

I ask (demand)
the other to meet my needs,
reach my expectations,
submit to my ideas of love. 

Echoing somewhere 
behind the feeling
of being wronged
a small voice asks,

"Is it you causing the damage?"

I fall into another bed
unwashed sheets
baggage unpacked.
I lose myself in the wanting. 

The echo shifts:

"They won’t ever be enough."
 
I am questioning my own reality now,
unconvinced it’s all me.
And yet,
considering it may be.