He’s banging on my door at 3am, asking if I have anything to eat. I tell him there’s a thing of frozen mozzarella sticks in the freezer—mostly so he’ll go away. The Patriarchy never says thank you. The Patriarchy puked up the entire contents of his stomach right in front of my door. The Patriarchy stained the rug. He didn’t even drink his own beer—instead chose to drink all of mine.
The Patriarchy does not believe in chipping in for gas. My apartment is a ten-minute walk from his office, but he insists I drive. Somehow, The Patriarchy never gets a hangover. He’s wearing his suit like always, tapping his foot, trying to get me to run the next red light because “it would be hilarious.” I’m not even sure what his job is. All I know is he’s going to spend the day texting me about “the game” which he knows I didn’t watch. And when I get home, twenty of The Patriarchy’s loudest friends are going to be there with him shouting about stuff, and spilling Natty Ice everywhere.
The Patriarchy doesn’t even live here. I don’t even know why he’s still on my couch. I’ve left his things on the porch twice, and each time they all magically end up back in my livingroom. When I try to bring this up, he pretends he didn’t hear. I’ve tried asking the landlord, but he doesn’t see The Patriarchy. The police have told me repeatedly that he does not exist, though I have shown them documents, and photographs, and various possessions in ziploc bags. I sent his fingerprints to the national database, and they told me they were smudges, just smudges on the paper. Say I should clean the house top-to-bottom, and be rid of him. Say I should leave. I did once. I moved into a new apartment with clean walls and smooth wood under my feet. I woke up the next morning he was there: tall, sweaty, filling up every room.
In the dream I had last night
I was sitting in a field on the border
between three countries.
A diplomat took a shotgun
and shot me in the mouth.
All of my teeth fell into the grass
like hail just fallen from the sky
waiting on the ground to melt.
A leader from each country
picked up a tooth and refused
to give it back. A small city
had been carved into one of my canines.
This is an act of war, they said.
I know, I said, but I need those.
Then the men ran into the hills
of their own countries leaving me
alone in the middle of the field
with no city, and no way to eat.
always fills me with dread,
so we turn up Bowie to pump ourselves up
while we circle the parking lot,
trying to find a place for us
in the waiting room of the underworld.
Inside the maze, we make our way
through the nine circles of a neverending house
where nobody will ever live. We travel
past kids having temper tantrums
by the stalagmites, couples fighting
over shower curtains, and the cafeteria
where you can choose between ordering meatballs
made of your butchered childhood hopes,
or potatoes. Some who journey here will not survive.
But we manage. We know
what we require. As we haul a floor lamp
and the boxes that will one day become our souls
to the cash register of the damned
the hands of those who did not make it out
grab at us, trying to look menacing
the way only a disembodied hand can.
We threaten litigation, and they crawl off
looking dejected, ready for their smoke breaks
where they hold the lit cigarette until the ash falls away
and their fingers burn.
At home we spread out the assembly instructions on the floor.
We organize the parts of us we thought we were lost forever
into piles of bolts, screws, and rust covered nails.
We know there will be places where nothing fits together.
We turn up our music, begin to build.
the whole world a symphony of beeps & clicks
we’ve got radio waves to spare, we have cartoon guns
we drew them—they make cartoon blood
they make everything into cardboard cutouts
we’ve got bullseyes—that’s what we manufacture
our factories suck in air & vomit out boxes
& broken people who end up in boxes.
we bury them under the dust
then talk about ashes & tell old stories
we read out loud from books left in temporary bedrooms—
they’re called The Word. we make words, we make them up.
we hurt you with them & give you a name.
your name means anything. you climb a tower
to look out across a freezing horizon
& say you watched for the edge of the world
we proved never existed
before we had anything to say about holograms
but already had bullets.
our skin was real skin you could really touch
what is your name for this universe, you dead,
you rotten, see we’ve done a lot with the place.
we’ve renovated, we call it ours.
bounds down the tarmac carrying all the bags
it has ever confiscated from you & flinging the contents
into the air like parade confetti. Airport Security prefers
that you do not joke about crude subject matter
such as your bedroom or America, but examined
all the dildos in your checked luggage real carefully.
Airport Security drunkenly stalked you on social media
for six hours last night & woke up with its face pressed
into the keyboard, the red imprint of the keys on its cheek,
& drool all over its chin. It definitely wrote you a long heart-felt message
that it thankfully never sent (but saved as a word doc
in a folder titled “CAT PICS”). Airport Security misses you,
can’t you tell? Did you get Airport Security’s mixtape?
It’s about your time together. You know, that time at Logan Airport
where you couldn’t get your shoes off fast enough
& held up the whole line & they glared at you
but it was really a sign that they could tell
how much you care about Freedom. Our Freedom. Together.
You can ride off into the sunset on a golf cart with Airport Security.
It can win you a giant unicorn at the fair. It will confiscate the unicorn
because all stuffed unicorns are filled with drugs & terrorism
& you can’t bring that shit on a plane. It will slit its belly open
with a knife, spilling the polyester beads everywhere
& you will keep finding them stuck in your shag rug
months later, long after you’ve stopped responding
to Airport Security’s texts, long after you decided
that it wasn’t worth flying in the first place.
By the seventh hour the back of my shoulder was beginning to break
crouching and heaving
my hand and your forehead
over the cooler I lifted your necklace out of
before it filled with the hot bile
I hoped wasn’t blood
thick and yellow
your tears viscous down my throat
your small dark body
wet between my legs
dripping out of my arms
onto the plastic floor of the tent
that was becoming just as small and dark
when you poured in
I had nothing to give you but kisses
long and insistent at the base of your neck
we pressed into you
with my hands and her hands and his hands
crowding out shadow
squeezing a sponge
making your stomach my stomach and clean
It had to get violent
this precious care
I rubbed hard against your chest
bone cracking bone
my knuckles clicking off the mounds of your ribs
where I knew it would hurt
and your head still dropped
I slapped your face
it took four of us to be your limbs and vital organs
it was getting light as I let you go
stayed awake to watch your breathing
tiny lungs and fragile air.
& we climbed up the hill behind the old school house
our shoes wrapped in bread bags, stuffed into rubber
boots, swaddled in layers of cotton-polyester blend
for warmth & thrift instead of fashion. The winter sun
glared down at us, threw bolts of bright ice glare, beamed
off the metal slide in the playground. We felt the wind
scrape its teeth across our faces as we trudged
to the highest peak we could find. Plastic sleds in tow,
greased on the bottom with cooking oil until they shined.
At the summit we took turns counting down from five
before we hurled ourselves with great speed to the snow pile
we’d built as a barrier against the highway. We slid so fast,
so often, wore a groove in the snow like a deep trench,
ignored the need to repair our barrier against the possibility
of death. I had one last run left in me before dinner time
& so I threw my body reckless down the pipeline worn
into melt by heat and friction. I was soaring or careening
at the speed of sound, too fast to hear the scream of speed
in my frostbitten ears, the low hum of traffic throbbing,
trucks blaring their angry horns as I skated across the asphalt,
& their brakes squealing, the tires’ chirping cough
leaving a long black streak in the gray pavement,
my sister’s worried face fading into fog, snow falling dry
like ash on her tongue.