there is a woman sitting next to me
folding one dollar bills into paper cranes
narrow & nimble fingers
chipped black nail polish
she doesn’t care
i want that feeling — a warm stillness
when you dance with laurel crowns
while music thickens your skin
i think flowers could tumble
out of your mouth instead of words
our laughter will shape together
like a flapping bird or a gold cup
our wishes hide between our teeth
& nothing means everything
& everything means nothing
my voice drips out in gabs & cocktails
grabbing at more cocktails.
It was the night you lost your cell phone.
Signals jammed & lost text messages.
I took the sweet moon water from the can
& lifted it to your lips. You said: I am
the daughter & the line of the moon. I nodded,
you are pretty in darkness. You slap
at your own ribcages when you have a
bad thought. It can’t be like the night
when you had all the boy’s blood on
your shirt. I leave my tribe buried in
your neck. It’s not that you want to die,
by the glow of moon, or sea-stars.
Still you whisper, as the wolf pack crowds:
I’m lucky, I’m lucky.
i took a picture of myself
w/ my phone
by the sun
i studied the slope of my cheekbones
a high huntress
i walked to the window
angles of light cutting over the sill
i want, i want
i want to taste something w/ my lips
i want golden shoes
& meaningful multisyllabic words—
a phrase that cuts stone
& i want to pull open the sun
& eat white roses
& write about journeys
instead, i take a photo
& send it out into digital space
where people will say i have pretty lips
& that i am beautiful, beautiful.
The end of our conversation was so final —
a drip in a coffee cup. As a teen girl, I said
enough rosaries to be holy, even though
I’m agnostic. I held enough sage & painted
lions to be a witch. When you ask if my arm
is my arm & I say yes & if you ask if my
body is still yours to trespass, I stutter.
i never have all the answers,
but i’ll try for a glass of bourbon.
most people don’t truly want to know themselves
it is a place with rings and hollowed out memories
saint halos & angels far too deep to help.
if you grow your hair long enough, you’ll be beautiful
& please wear those cat eye glasses
people like to be reminded of an old world
they were never part of.
if you take your glasses & shimmy &
sip the drink — like i told you — i’ll tell you stories
in lands where men seek riches & fame, of course,
not without beauty or revenge
& i can take you out of this world for a second
just with poly wood and candles
with deep breathing
i’ll return you back, glittered & translucent
like skinning your knee for the first time
or holding your father’s hand.
I should have known they were going to turn my hearing off. I hadn’t paid the bill in two months, and their emails had become more frequent and passively judgmental.
“You may want to consider the ramifications of losing one of your senses,” one of the last ones said. “The Somatic Revenue Service was established for precisely this purpose: each of our bodily abilities is a precious gift of quantifiable monetary value. Your refusal to pay your bill like your fellow citizens thus suggests a lamentable lack of self-worth, not to mention a barely disguised contempt for society. Should we be forced to terminate one of your senses we will not be responsible for any effects on your public or private life…”
They knew from my NeuroChip reports that I’d been to primary and secondary university and I still didn’t have a happy love life or a job fitting my abilities, at 37. I was reminded that most people are well-fit with partners and jobs by 30, and my inability to pay the bill was the price I paid for sloth.
“Until you pay your outstanding debts, you will be rendered deaf on Monday, March 10th at 4:00 a.m. Eastern Time. When you do pay, your hearing will be restored as soon as your credit card is processed. We hope you will find your deprivation a motivating experience.”
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Before leaving for college Séamus had shaved his head. All of it. To the scalp. Marina had said she didn’t recognize him. That upon seeing Séamus walk toward her she’d wondered from where this hot new boy had come. Séamus had come to see the world as something balanced on its right foot. Something that could give-up any second. He hadn’t wanted it. Hadn’t wanted what was coming. However hexagonal. However so fresh or so clean-clean. However glitzed-up or pimped-out. Didn’t matter. Okay.
Marina had enrolled in one of the local state colleges while Séamus enrolled in one of the most private. One of the most non-local. On the plane over the middle of the continent there hadn’t been anything for Séamus to do but hate himself and hope to maybe not die. He had spent most of the time looking out the window, at the dusty, pancake-ish netherspace some-many tens-of-thousands of feet below. He hadn’t realized the two women sitting next to him were famous singers until they’d disembarked. He had wondered why they were reading and showing each other gossip magazines but hadn’t thought to ask. Had thought it was something cute people do together anyway. Giggling. Commenting. “Why were they in economy class?” he’d asked himself.
The next four years had been badly flavored soup. He’d barely talked with Marina during them. Séamus had thought she might’ve had to hate or forget him. But she’d only become more fond and neurotically humored by Séamus. Okay.
Once over Instant Messenger Séamus had confided in Marina he’d been right. He really had come to hate it. He’d hated the voluntary starvation. The betrayals and execution. The bureaus disguised as boards disguised as panels disguising leagues of accredited American Idol judges thumbing up and down at whim. It had seemed like no one knew what they were doing. Administrators. Professors. Staff and students alike. Séamus’ education had seemed so thrown together he couldn’t believe millions of dollars were being spent toward its perpetuity.
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I wish I was stoned, but I wasn’t so I was forced to keep walking tirelessly. I pass a white man with brown hair, he looks like a republican that hates black people. He gives me an insulting glare to which I roll my eyes at, he stops making eye contact. God, I wish I was stoned.
I remember this one time in the third grade when this little prick called me a nigger. I told the teacher and she called the boy over. His name was Justin. The teacher was blonde with thin tightly stretched lips. She was often strict and had a reputation of sending children to the principal’s office. That day, however, she told Justin that his punishment was ‘no free time for the afternoon.’ Justin didn’t apologize, and his parents never found out. I was too ashamed to tell mine.
I really don’t want to be thinking about those memories. I just really want to be stoned. My sixty-three-year-old aunt sent me to get milk and cigarettes. “But not the cheap milk from the corner, the organic stuff,” she said. The milk that can only be bought from a mile away. I’m halfway there regretting that I never learnt how to drive while my thigh sticks to my too-tight jean shorts.
An elderly black man in a sweat stained white tee shirt is walking in my opposite direction. He looks at me but we’re too far away to nod or smile without it being awkward. We make eye contact too soon. This happens to me often. I look to the ground for what seems like a hefty amount of time. When I look up the man is two feet away and I smile and tell him to have a good morning. He smiles back and says, ‘you have a great morning young lady!’ When he passes me I turn and look at him again, I felt an urge to tell him about Justin. Fourteen years later, and I have never told anyone about Justin.
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